What are you giving up for Lent? Coke? Chocolate? Alcohol? French fries? Giving up earthly indulgences or treats can be uncomfortable for 40 days, especially if it’s something that is part of our daily routine. But considering that Jesus gave up his life for our sins, is giving up a mere luxury what we should be doing?
Too often we all look forward to the end of Lent so we can go back to our old ways and old habits. But let us consider: Is this really the meaning of Lent? Does God want us to make a temporary secular sacrifice or a permanent change to our souls?
During Lent we are called to remember that God drew closer to us by sending His only son to become one of us and then die for us. It is also a time for us to draw closer to God. We draw closer to Christ through sacrifice, yes. But that’s not the only way. We also draw closer through purification of our souls, especially if that purification improves the lives of others.
If you are willing to give up visiting “those websites”, stop flirting with women who are not your wife, and reject lustful thoughts, you will improve your marriage and your relationship with your wife and children.
If you are willing to eat less and give St. Vincent de Paul and other food banks more, you will give other people the warmth of a helping hand. You might also lose a few pounds.
If you are willing to stop worshipping the false gods of materialism and replace greed with tithing, you will help the Church accomplish its mission of continuing the works of Jesus Christ.
If you are willing to reject slothfulness in your faith and commit to learning God’s Word, and also commit to sharing what you learn, you will be fulfilling your duties as evangelizing disciples and members of the Church Militant who stand against “the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” as we learn in Ephesians.
If you are willing to temper your anger, be patient, and stop holding grudges, you will be sharing God’s kindness and grace.
If you are willing to stop obsessing over what you think you deserve and live happily with the blessings God has given you rather than succumbing to envy, you will be able to share that happiness with everyone around you.
And if you are willing to address the original and deadliest of the seven deadly sins, if you replace your pride with humility, if you are able to listen to that friend or family member who tells you out of love that you have something you need to improve about yourself, then you will be putting the needs of others ahead of your own.
Ultimately, the purpose of Lent shouldn’t be a singular sacrifice or change. This Lent should work in concert with every Lent, and result in a cumulative change of your soul. We should make every Lent an opportunity to take another step toward purifying our souls permanently.
Change is difficult, but we can all draw closer to God and to Jesus Christ if we take it one Lent at a time.