A new quarter of classes & a new season of the Church. It is a wonderful time for looking to the love of Christ on the cross and seeing how we can perfect our own love. Lent is one of the best times of the year. The secular world has one day for self-improvement – New Years Day – and that’s buttressed by the secular version of Christmas and the partying of the new year.
The Church in her wisdom offers us a journey of forty days to cross the wasteland desert that our sin creates in us. Forty days to recall Christ’s life and death for us, forty days to prepare us for His resurrection at Easter – the promise (in the flesh) of God’s eternal presence and love after death.
There is the notion that Lent is a time when the only appropriate attitude is self-castigation and sacrifice of things that are enjoyable. Chocolate, television, favorite activities or other good things are given up. There is a sense of obligatory penance – gloom & sorrow that we may not really feel.
But Lent isn’t simply a period of fasting and sacrifice. The purpose of Lent is to help us to love ourselves less & less and to love God more fully. Fasting and sacrifice is the means to achieve that. It is not, however, the point of the season.
Too often Lent becomes reduced to fasting and sacrifice. Not only do we miss the point by doing this, but those fastings and sacrifices are – quite frankly – unworthily small sacrifices that are offered begrudgingly. In light of what we should be doing to better love God, doesn’t giving up the luxury of chocolate for 40 days seem small in comparison? Imagine what your spouse, your best friend or a family member would think if they were the object of Lent. “You gave up television for me – but what are you doing for me?”
Well before Lent began, a group of us were talking about sacrifices and what people do for Lent. One person piped up and mentioned that her friend had given up sarcastic jokes & prodding for Lent. At first we all laughed, because this is something we enjoy playing around with. But after some discussion, we realized that this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill Lenten sacrifice. This person wasn’t just trying to give up something fun, he was trying to improve his charity towards others.
Now we’re cooking with gas!
The height of Lent isn’t in losing something good. Rather, the bread & water of Lent is in putting ourselves alongside Christ and honestly challenging ourselves to fully love Him – loving as He did. If we can look at these forty days in the desert – reflecting on Christ’s life & death – as conforming us towards Christ, imagine how much more we will be able to love Christ in His resurrection.
God bless you during this Lent.