When I was growing up, my understanding of Lent was that I wasn’t supposed to be eating candy, I got “black stuff” on my forehead at the beginning of the season, and we didn’t eat meat on Fridays. What it actually meant was beyond me; and to be completely honest, I didn’t really care.
At the time, I didn’t really know Jesus. I knew that God existed, but the message of the Paschal Mystery was foreign. Thankfully, my heart converted during my high school years, and my life was never the same.
Once you let Jesus open your heart and transform you, Lent suddenly has an entirely new meaning.
Many of us have heard the verse, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). In other words, we must be willing to let go of our desires and plans in order to allow Him to renew our souls. I remember during Ash Wednesday 2017, the priest kept saying, “What in me must die so that He can live within me?” That is what Lent is really about; not that giving up candy for 40 days is going to get us into Heaven, but to rid ourselves of our ungodly ways so that we can be filled with His spirit and become more like Him. As Jesus went to go and be tempted by the Devil for 40 days, we too let ourselves go through temptation by challenging ourselves, asking Jesus to help us through it.
We undergo a “spiritual death” so that on Easter, we may rise with Him.
What Do We Give Up For Lent?
Here are a few tips to help you decide.
1. Lent isn’t meant for dieting fads
I know so many people who give up sweets and/or coffee for Lent. Some people may have a real addiction to something that is truly harming their body, and, in that case, giving up something food related would be fine. However, in other cases, it’s important to look at what you are really worshiping here…God, or your body? Is the food you are giving up really going to put you through an emptiness that you can fill in with Jesus, or is it just a convenient (but not so holy) time-frame to use to begin a new diet, like the beginning of the New Year?
2. You can add something
The common question for the season is “what are you giving up for Lent?”But believe it or not, we can actually add something, like additional prayer or even attending daily Mass. The real deal is to be challenged spiritually.
3. Give up AND add something
The first time I had ever heard this idea was in college and honestly, it makes the most sense to me. How many of us have claimed that we don’t have time to pray? In fact, the bigger question is, why we are treating Jesus like an item on our to-do list? Hey, I’m guilty of it too, unfortunately. For example, you can sacrifice watching your favorite show, or…dare I say it, give up binge-watching Netflix to spend time in prayer instead. Or, replace a bad habit with something spiritual. With Lent, we are supposed to rid ourselves of what takes us away from Christ and to give up our willfulness in order to let Jesus fill us.
I saw a commercial recently reminding me that just because the “season of giving” is over, doesn’t mean that we should stop helping others. That may sound obvious, but it is so easy to get caught up in ourselves, especially once the Christmas season is over, because we are trying to get back into the “flow.” However, being selfless is a great way to empty ourselves for Christ. Plus, acts of charity help us to do His work.
5. Memento Mori (Remember your death)
If you are active on Catholic Twitter, chances you are aware of #mementomori from Sr. Theresa Aletheia. She’s an awesome media nun who has been keeping a skull on her desk for over 180 days, used as a reminder that there is something even greater after life. Why not give it a try yourself? Having a reminder that we are living for something greater than ourselves definitely can give us a push on our path to holiness, which is something we absolutely need Jesus for. Plus, as Sister has mentioned, it’s quite the conversation starter.
6. Still confused? Take our Quiz – What Should You Give Up For Lent?
[Disclaimer: This is a post of mine that was originally posted on Catholic Link.]