How about adding something to your Lenten diet this year, in place of the things you abstain from?
I’m not talking about adding food. As Jesus famously said, we don’t live just on bread, but on “every word” that comes from God (see Matthew 4:4). Lent is a great time to see the truth of that, by making it intentional.
Pope Francis had an interesting comment on Jesus’s parable of the rich man who ignored Lazarus, the poor beggar who lay dying at his gate (see Luke 16) . He said that the root of the rich man’s problem was not his wealth but his failure to pay attention to God’s word. The man was so caught up in his own pursuits, he didn’t listen to the word that he heard. And that set off a chain reaction. His love of God grew cold. He stopped noticing his needy neighbor and eventually grew to despise him.
I wonder how often that happens to us. We’re good people, we go to church, we take care of our families, we volunteer — but all those good things start to overcome our inner lives. We carve out precious time to relax: to play golf, or exercise, or see a movie. But there’s no time to sit with the Scriptures, to really listen to God speak into our hearts and transform us. How long before our own love will grow cold, like the rich man’s in the parable?
“The Word is a gift,” Pope Francis reminds us. “The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God.”
How can we open our heart to this gift, especially at Lent, which calls us in a special way to a fresh start?
Set aside a daily time to consume the Word
One way is to set aside 10-30 minutes a day for each of the 40 days of Lent to read and meditate on Scripture. You probably already have a 10-minute habit you rarely miss. Maybe you read the paper or solve the Wordle puzzle before you go to work. Or you scroll through your Instagram feed during lunch, or channel-surf before turning in for the night. What daily habit can you give up for Lent instead of coffee or sweets, and replace it with time in the word of God?
In my experience, one of the biggest obstacles to starting to read the Bible is the lack of a plan. With that in mind, here are three simple suggestions to get you started. Perhaps one will inspire you to spend 40 days in the Word and allow it to feed your soul.
1. Focus on the readings you hear at Mass
Read along with the Church and meditate on the Ash Wednesday and Sunday readings throughout the following week. Download 40 Days in th40 Days in the Bible-Yr A_2017,20…e Bible, my free Monday-Friday reading plan for the Lent and Easter Seasons, Year A.
2. Read through one of the Gospels
Take a slow journey through the Gospel of Matthew. Here is a daily Lenten reading plan that takes you through Jesus’s life and ministry and into his passion, death, and resurrection just as we are celebrating those things as a Church. To journal as you go, record the date and passage read along with your observations, questions, what it means to your life and how you respond to God. Download the Reading Checklist here.
3. Follow this Lent-themed reading plan
Daily readings in this plan from the Living the Word Catholic Women’s Bible are grouped under weekly themes like “We are dust” and “in the Wilderness,” “Toward hope,” and “Called to die” — taking you on a scriptural tour from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday. Download the pdf here, or order the Bible here (use the code WORDOFGOD22 through the end of February $5 off and free shipping).
4. Meditate on the Penitential Psalms
Follow the tried-and-true practice of reading the seven Penitential Psalms. My Lenten journal, Create in Me a Clean Heart: Ten Minutes a Day in the Penitential Psalms will guide you through a daily prayerful meditation on one of these psalms a week from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Available from Amazon.
Read more about praying with the Penitential Psalms, and find more resources to help you, here.
Whatever you choose to do, I’d love to hear how it goes!
Blessings on you as you read His word.
©2023 Sarah Christmyer; revised from “40 Days in the Word: Add Scripture to your lenten diet,” published February 22, 2017.
You might also like this rather different post I wrote on the same theme (focusing on the “how” rather than the “what”) for the Women in the New Evangelization blog: Fill Your Lenten Diet with Scripture