I swear it’s the first question I hear every year, usually complete with raised eyebrows. If I’m lucky, I might get the head nod.
Soooooo, what are you giving up for Lent?
It seems like everyone’s default is Dr Pepper! Chocolate! Sweets! Beer! Facebook!
Don’t get me wrong. Those are all good things to fast from these 40 days. I mean, I might question your sanity on giving up the 23 flavors, but I get it. I’ve been there. I get that perhaps giving up one of those things may lead you to a healthier lifestyle, a slimmer waistline, a better budget, a more balanced view of reality.
But Lent really isn’t about better health, better cash flow, better food or better self-esteem.
It’s about a better soul.
Those things might be the building blocks in helping you achieve a better soul. But, when we get right down to it, Lent is meant to break us down to build us back up. God is asking us to strip away the usual frivolities and focus on Him instead. The giving up, the praying and the doing more are just the first part. To be honest, anybody can do those.
If you’re like me, Lent has been about the doing. What are you DOING this Lent? What are you GIVING UP this Lent? But, what if we started asking the question: How are you going to be TRANSFORMED this Lent? Would that change the conversation? Would that change our approach?
Maybe if instead of me just writing 40 notes in 40 days, getting rid of 40 bags of stuff, praying 40 Divine Mercy Chaplets, spending 40 hours at Adoration or giving up 40 days of sweets and caffeine, I’ll be reminded to love. To live. To forgive. To pray. To be content.
To be satisfied that He is enough.
Catholics don’t have the market on this Lenten thing. We might get the most press – thanks, Vatican! – but Lent is for everyone who desires a relationship with God. You don’t have to be some super, über-Catholic to get box seats for Lent. You just have to open and willing to be transformed.
Recently, our parish priest delivered one hell of a homily. He was relating Lent, and its timing, to this Jubilee Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis. He was challenging us to look to Lent as 40 days of mercy, 40 days of forgiveness. Rather than just “do the usual,” he asked us, “How is God calling you to be a better disciple? How is He asking you to look at those you love, and those you hate, with a more tender heart?”
I know. Those are a lot of questions that I don’t have the answers to either.
But I tell you what. This Lent, let’s try to answer them. Let’s try to be ever-purposeful with our prayers, fasting and alms giving. Let’s take those sacrifices and try to see how God wants to transform us. And, then, let’s be transformed.
God doesn’t need another list-maker, he needs another disciple.
Here’s to giving up on Lent and being transformed by God.