Benedict encourages us to increase both our faith and works of charity during Lent.
Lent is a perfect time of the year to evaluate our own faith life and to consider various ways to improve it. Pope Benedict XVI, during his final message for Lent in 2013, gave his thoughts on what is the key to a fruitful Lent.
Benedict writes, “The celebration of Lent … offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between believing in God – the God of Jesus Christ – and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.”
He then explains how faith leads to charity, which is a response to God’s love for us.
The entire Christian life is a response to God’s love. The first response is precisely faith as the acceptance, filled with wonder and gratitude, of the unprecedented divine initiative that precedes us and summons us. And the “yes” of faith marks the beginning of a radiant story of friendship with the Lord, which fills and gives full meaning to our whole life. But it is not enough for God that we simply accept his gratuitous love. Not only does he love us, but he wants to draw us to himself, to transform us in such a profound way as to bring us to say with Saint Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (cf. Gal 2:20).
In other words, “Faith is knowing the truth and adhering to it (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); charity is ‘walking’ in the truth (cf. Eph 4:15).”
Its easy to remain laser-focused during Lent on bolstering up our prayer life, which is a good and praiseworthy goal. However, Pope Benedict XVI asks us to take the next step and to use that renewed faith by being charitable towards others.
As St. Paul famously put it, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Charity should always be on our radar, and we can not trade it in for a better prayer life. We must allow our prayer life to drive our charity, seeking to outdo others in generosity. That is the Christian life and the key to a fruitful Lent.