Lent is upon us! Every year on the days before Lent, I find myself running around in a panic wondering “ZOMG what am I gonna give up for Lent?” And then I get really anxious because giving something up for 40 days is like, y’know, a big deal.
When it comes to our Lenten sacrifices, many of us fall into 2 different traps:
- Giving up something because we WANT to. For example, maybe we might decide to give up sugar, not because it’s pleasing to God but because we actually wanna lose some belly fat. (That’s totally me, btw)
- Giving up something that doesn’t really make a difference to our lives. Maybe we’ll give up say, Instagram, when in reality we don’t actually spend that much time on Instagram
Here’s the thing: When it comes to Lenten sacrifices, it’s not REALLY about giving something up.
Instead, it’s about looking deep within ourselves and asking: Which aspects of my life are preventing me from fully following Jesus? How can I address them so that I can be closer to become a saint?
Because we’re all called to become saints, people. You know those statues you see at church of the great saints like St Joseph, St Anne, St Peter? That’s how holy God is calling us to be.
So – what’s the first step we can take this Lent to be a legit saint? Instead of focusing on say, giving up chocolate (which – let’s be honest – probably doesn’t really make that much difference in our spiritual lives), Jesus talks about prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let’s take each of them in turn:
I’d say for 90% of us, prayer is the #1 thing we could do to get closer to God. After all, which other way puts us so directly in communion with Him?
Your prayer doesn’t even have to be crazy intense. Nobody is asking you to do 9 Rosaries every day. Instead, take an honest look at your prayer life. What’s one thing you’re lacking in your prayer life that’s preventing you from getting closer to God?
Are you rushing through prayers? Do you neglect to set time aside for prayer? Are you praying for the wrong things?
Personally, I’ve never really felt close to our Blessed Mother. So this Lent, I’m making a conscious effort to pray a Chaplet of the Rosary every day. It doesn’t take long – literally 15-20 minutes a day – but I’m hoping that it brings me closer to her and helps me live by her example.
What about you? Could you commit to an extra devotion per week like the Stations of the Cross, going for adoration, or weekday Mass? Could you join a bible sharing session? Pray for someone or a cause?
Let’s remember that fasting isn’t about losing weight. No one is asking you to go without meals for 7 days (although, if God is calling you to do that, great!).
It doesn’t even have to be about food. You could fast from complaining, social media, gossip, negativity, anger, shopping, etc. Basically any worldly addictions or crutches that we’re holding on to that keep us away from God.
Think about something as simple as not checking your phone when you’re with your family or at Mass – that counts as fasting too.
Depending on what you fast on, sometimes it has the added benefit of helping you save some money too! Which bring us to…
Fasting and almsgiving usually go together. Why? Because many people sometimes unconsciously fast because they see some extrinsic benefit to themselves: They get to lose weight; or save more money.
Almsgiving helps us to step outside of ourselves and put us in solidarity with other people. So if you save some money by fasting – step outside yourself and put it towards helping other people. If you forego one meal a day and save $5, by the end of the 40 days you’d have $200 that could help the poor or the Church.
Also, it doesn’t have to be about money. You could donate your time, your energy, and your talents too.
What’s important is to remember to make it intentional. Like the widow in the temple, we’re called not just to give from our surplus (going back to #2 on our “Wrong Ways To Give Up Stuff For Lent” list), but to instead give in a way that involves a real sacrifice for the service of others.
So today, I invite you to pick just ONE THING – just one! – to focus on this Lent. Don’t worry, unless God calls you home early, you’ll have many more Lents to go to focus on the others.
For those of us who’ve already picked our Lenten sacrifice, let’s take a deep look at our intentions behind it. Is our Lenten sacrifice leading us closer to God?
Have a very blessed Lent!
Image credit: Catholic Sistas