Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What have you given up?

All my life the question has come up. Sometimes I’ve asked it of others, but more often it’s been asked of me. If I say that I’ve given up something for Lent that is perceived as easy, I am met with ridicule and scorn. Okay, maybe this is an exaggeration, but the point is made that we seem expect a level of difficulty or self-improvement regarding our Lenten disciple.

I say, let them scorn away. Let them think themselves superior. It makes no difference to God, I am sure. There is nothing that I can find that says that what I give up for Lent has to be a hardship for me. In fact, the degree of difficulty is hardly the point.

The point a Lenten disciple is taking something on. If you don’t know what to take on our Ash Wednesday liturgy makes many helpful suggestions. We can engage in a time of self-examination, asking ourselves important questions about our journey of faith. We can be penitent, confessing our sinfulness and seeking God’s forgiveness (which is always assured). We can take on more prayer, particularly when we crave the thing we’ve given up for Lent. We can increase our almsgiving, giving our money to the church for the continuing ministry of building up the mystical Body of Christ. We can take on the reading of and meditating on Holy Scripture, the revealed word of God.

It is good to give something up for Lent, but more importantly we can take something on. So, give up something easy, and what that is, is of no one’s concern (but you and God’s). What you take on might require some help from your faith community. It is usually helpful to engage in self-examination, penitence, prayer, almsgiving and study with others. We are often more critical of ourselves than we need to be and a community of faith can remind us of love-worthiness.

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