Let’s listen to the following conversation among a group of children:
What are you giving up for Lent?” one child asked. Another answered, “I don’t know, haven’t thought about a Lenten sacrifice yet.” A third child very virtuously responded, “I’m giving up candy,” to which the others are suitably impressed, though not inspired to follow suit. Now let’s fast forward to Easter Monday when these children are together again, this time amazed at the big bag of candy the third child has.
“Did the Easter Bunny bring all that?” they asked. With a big grin, this one responded, “Nope, I got all this candy during Lent. Since I gave it up, I saved it to eat now.”
Recalling our childhood, did we do something similar or hear of others who did? As we mature, hopefully our understanding of Lenten sacrifices surpasses a child’s understanding of “giving up” something for Lent.
The word “sacrifice” comes from the Latin “to make holy.” We want to “make holy” what we do out of love for Jesus, who has such a total and immeasurable love for each of us that he “sacrificed” (gave up) his life for us on Calvary, so we could live with him in heaven.
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us” is a paraphrase taken from St. Augustine’s prayer of praise to God for his personal and immeasurable love for each of us. It is not possible for our finite minds to comprehend God’s infinite love. For some, perhaps the experience of loving and being loved left much to be desired, if not a broken heart. We need never fear this in giving our heart to God, for God’s love will never leave us. The Greek word “metanoia” means a change in our life resulting from penitence or conversion. The purpose of Lent is to help us to turn back to God, to respond to God’s love by offering our love in return.
This year the six weeks of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22. As ashes, which come from burned
palms from last year’s Palm Sunday, are placed on our forehead in the Sign of the Cross, we hear the words: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”
Lent invites us to turn away from sin, which St. Basil the Great describes as misusing the power for good that God has given us, and to be faithful to the Gospel, which is the Good News of God’s love for us.
Are you ready to respond to the question:
“What are you giving up for Lent?”
Generally, we have been accustomed to “giving up” something, but there are many positive actions to offer Our Lord and others during Lent. How about considering these three traditional Lenten practices along with a few ideas for each:
■ Attend Mass on weekdays in addition to Sunday Mass
■ Make a good confession
■ Read the Bible 15 minutes a day, perhaps starting with the Gospels
■ Attend Holy Hours; slowly pray the Rosary, Stations of the Cross or your favorite prayers
■ Read the Lives of the Saints or other good spiritual books
■ Eat less and donate food or money to a food pantry
■ Say “No” to sweets, alcohol, coffee, soft drinks, etc. to help strengthen yourself to say “No” to sin
■ Cut down on or give up screen time and notice the needs of others, helping and praying for them
■ Instead of buying “extras” for yourself, donate that money to charitable causes or to a neighbor in need
■ Spend quality time with your family; eat healthy meals together and listen to each other
■ Practice the Works of Mercy, remembering that Jesus identified himself with those in need. (Mt. 25: 31 – 40)