The first Sunday of Lent and no doubt some are asking what ‘you gave up for Lent’. Perhaps you are hesitant to answer or answer boldly, but many people wonder about this ‘giving up’. This is a form of fasting and penance but didn’t the Second Vatican Council get rid of such ‘old fashioned ideas’?
Lent comes from the word- still evident in many European languages- for spring. How odd that may seem as we rarely associate the liturgical season with this yearly season but the connection can help perhaps understand ‘giving up’ things for Lent.
Spring is a time of re-birth- there is increasing sunlight each day, flowers begin to sprout, birds return and crops begin to grow. And who does not love it (unless if you suffer from allergies?) but this re-birth comes only after a winter when trees shed leaves and the cold reduces life to a minimum level. The glorious, radiant abundance of spring only comes after the death of winter. The liturgical season is similar to this- if we want real growth (an Easter re-birthing) we need to look at ourselves clearly and ask what in life prevents total devotion to God, what keeps us from loving other people and what habits distract us from family, friends and God. It could be an obsession with our I-Phone? Gossiping? Eating too much? Drinking too much? Sloth? Jealousy or anger? Cynicism? Or not having a daily habit of prayer? The list is different for each person but Lent is a season which allows us to ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to lay aside material objects (too much food, drink, I-Phones, etc.) or habits which distract us. This is certainly not easy (who doesn’t feel the call of a nice hamburger during Lenten Fridays!) and a small form of dying, but we do this not as a punishment or masochism nor a belief that through our penances we earn God’s favor. God loves us regardless but Lent gives us a chance to die to certain practices or habits to gain a new perspective of what really matters in life and to more fully follow Christ. This the Second Vatican Council most certainly did not abolish-though it reminded us that Lenten penances do not earn us salvation (that is a gift of Christ) nor are they a rejection of the material world.
Mission Doctors help the poor to bring life and hope to our brothers and sisters in poorer nations. Please pray for them and support them financially as you can. God bless your Lenten journey!