MOST PEOPLE ARE FAMILIAR with the idea of “tithing,” offering to God a tenth of one’s income. It is a biblical concept, rooted in the Book of Genesis, when Abraham gave to Melchizedek, king of Salem, “a tenth of everything” (Gen 14:20).
Christians have carried on this example for centuries, and not only in regard to money. A largely lost tradition, and one well worth recovering, is to approach the 40 days of Lent — slightly more than a tenth of the year — as a spiritual tithe of our time.
Time is more valuable than money. Giving money to God is, for many people, relatively easy, while giving him our time is more difficult. We do all that we can to safeguard our leisure, not wanting anyone or anything to invade it. Even making the time to go to Sunday Mass can feel challenging for some of us, as we would rather spend that hour sleeping in or watching sports.
When it comes to Lent, simply crossing 40 days off the calendar cannot be considered a worthy sacrifice. If we want to make a tithe of our time, we must use those days well, turning them into a meaningful offering to God. Fortunately, the Church gives us a blueprint for how to do this. It involves taking up what the Ash Wednesday liturgy calls the “arms of Christian penance”: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Prayer: Make time in your daily routine for personal prayer, whether it be five minutes, 15 minutes or an hour. To be worthwhile, prayer need not lead to ecstatic union with God, but it should be intentional. The key is to schedule prayer in our daily calendars, making it an appointment we don’t erase, and thus a priority we won’t forget.
Fasting: Observe the days of fasting and abstinence in Lent, especially abstaining from meat on Fridays. It is a simple sacrifice, but one that is intentional and reminds us of our duties to God and the agony Jesus suffered on Good Friday. In fact, we can extend this practice through the year and abstain from meat every Friday, which remains an obligatory day of penance according to canon law.
Almsgiving: The Church encourages almsgiving, an offering of money and material goods or acts of charity to the most vulnerable and those in need. Volunteering our time in service to others should come naturally for Knights and already be a part of our daily lives, but it is something we should practice with special attention during Lent.
This idea of tithing our time is a particular responsibility for all husbands and fathers. It is our vocation to lead our family, and if we don’t make God a priority in our personal lives, our family won’t either.
Schedule a regular time to pray as a family — whether it involves the family rosary, reading Scripture or something else. As Father Patrick Peyton famously said, “The family that prays together stays together.”
Be countercultural and challenge your family to fast from TV or smartphones, particularly on Fridays. Recall that Christ fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, doing spiritual battle with Satan. Unplug and see what spiritual fruits the Lord may have in store for your family, the domestic church.
Finally, look for opportunities to serve your parish or community together as a family. And more importantly, practice spiritual almsgiving within your own home. Make it a place of charity by routinely performing acts of kindness and the spiritual works of mercy — forgiving offenses willingly, bearing wrongs patiently, comforting the afflicted.
We are called by God to be leaders in our families and communities whether we like it or not. In the way we use our time, we can lead our domestic churches and those around us by example, both during Lent and throughout the rest of the year.
PHILIP KOSLOSKI writes from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., where he is a member of Msgr. Reding Council 1558.
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