BARNES: A poor man’s Lent

March 10, 2020

A friend and I were discussing the balance of marriage, young kids, jobs and transitions. He said something that really moved me: “These are the slim years.”

Hearing him say how his family navigated these years, and how well they are doing now positively impacted me. Prior to this moment, I hadn’t really thought much about how my family is living. The last three years are the poorest I have ever been in my life, and with the most responsibility I have ever had -- with two kids to help, one with extra medical needs.

I am learning the scope of who God is calling me to be, and how to live with the Holy Spirit, full of fascinating sparks of joy that disarm me in the surprise.

At the beginning of 2019, I wanted to be more open to God moving in my life in ways that take me out of my comfort zone. Do you know how 2019 looked for me? There were many months I didn’t know where the money would come from for our house payment, how we would get the money to pay for parking at the next doctor visit for our son, or if the food would stretch.

While, yes, this was frustrating, it also taught me that God literally always provided for every little thing we needed as a family. Every detail was thought of and shown through for my family. I didn’t always ask for help; it was mostly unknowingly gifted.

We never went hungry; we had the money to do all the things we needed. We saw the multiplication in front of our eyes. The love surrounding our community blossomed. This changed my view on poverty.

I used to be fairly bitter that this was our situation. Jesus stripped my heart, and he helped me see that accepting my situation opened up a door to be richly loved. This gives people an opportunity to love me and my family as Jesus Christ loves the Catholic Church.

As I started to embrace the season we were in, it moved me to action. If God was literally providing me with blessings I didn’t know I needed until they were gifted, how could I not do everything in my power to have my life glorify Him in all I do? I began to give more in how I loved my own family, and in how I served the young people in my youth ministry program.

In receiving out of love, I gave more of myself and any resources I had away. I found a new freedom from attachment to my own desires, plans, and anything we owned. My faith has grown to an even greater depth of sincerity: to fear nothing, trusting Jesus Christ undoubtingly to abundantly giving my family exactly what we need.

This brought my prayer time to Mark 12:41-44: The Poor Widow’s Contribution. Every week, this simple motion of throwing money into the basket during Mass has reformed me.

I can name 15 other places that money needs to go, but I know the Lord gives back to me tenfold as I give Him my life. I cannot deny the blessings in that trusting movement. As we are walking into this Lenten season, we are asked to pray, fast, and do almsgiving. For, we come from dust and to dust we will return.

Do you live with this in mind daily? How are you being called to transform yourself this Lent: to dive into your prayer life anew, to fast to be made whole, and to give alms to the point of being set free?

Here are three simple suggestions to consider for Lent:

1. Reading the daily Gospel the first thing in the morning. Take turns proclaiming the Word as a family. Most Church parishes offer the Magnificat each month. Put it in a central location at your home to remind you to reflect on Jesus’s word.

2. Fasting from music when multitasking. When I go to the gym, I like to use tunes to help inspire me to keep going and growing. During this Lent, I will be entering into silence during that time. Instead, I will remember to praise the God who wonderfully made me and has given me strength to push myself.

3. Giving away items from around your home that aren’t used. In our home, this is baby items. We are gathering all of them and donating them to the local pregnancy center to help those in need.

Chloe Barnes is an associate director of youth ministry at St. Helen Catholic Church in Pearland.