In our Tradition, prayer, fasting and giving our money to the poor are central Lenten activities. The purpose of all these practices – and any others we add in our personal lives – is to help us move more deeply into our life of Baptism and Eucharist, into Christ’s Paschal Mystery – dying to our own sinfulness and self-centeredness and rising to new life in Christ.
We fast and practice other disciplines, not as ends in themselves, but so that we can clear away the clutter of our lives and see what is really important and how much we need and hunger for God. We reach out to help others, not because Lent is a time for charity, but because that is what being joined to Christ is all about. We go into our spiritual deserts so that we may come face to face with the power of sin and death inside us, and to learn to rely on the love, power and mercy of God. We repent so that we may open ourselves to God’s love and mercy and, through God, change our lives. So the value of any Lenten activity can be judged by how well it helps us live our Baptism, by how it helps connect us to the Catholic community, the Body of Christ, and by how Christlike it helps us become. Some of our younger members might be able to do this by giving up gum. The rest of us probably will want to look a little deeper.