It’s that time of year again for smudges of ash on your forehead, incredible desserts in the caf that you can only look at, and people questioning why you haven’t been on Facebook for the past four weeks. In other words, that time of the year that’s full of misery.
Ah, Lent. Don’t you love it?
Perhaps it’s because Lent falls in the worst part of the Minnesota winter, when the days are insanely cold, dark, and gloomy and one of the few comforts in life is chocolate cake. Aren’t we already tortured enough? Do I have to give up my few winter comforts, such as TV, social media, and a gigantic mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows? Geez….
These things are my comforts and my joys. If I don’t have them I get grumpy, depressed, and sometimes even vicious.
|You heard me! Vicious!|
The Church, in Her wisdom, has designated Lent as a time of giving up things that we have replaced Jesus with. Instead of reading the Bible, I browse through Odd Thomas novels. Instead of praying, I watch Hawaii Five-O in the hopes that watching Steve McGarrett shoot bad guys and rescue women in distress will distract me from my problems. Instead of walking down to Adoration, I hoof it to the gym and work out like a madwoman in the hopes of obtaining that elusive six-pack. When I need help, comfort, or just a reassurance that I am loved, I go everywhere but to the arms of Jesus.
Lent helps us “kick the habit,” so to speak, and get all the drek out of the way so the only option we have is Jesus, who can give us so much more than hot actors or dessert or Netflix ever could. Lent also shows us what weenies we are when it comes to our spiritual life. When someone takes away our TV or our chocolate pudding or our Twitter, we whine and moan and complain like spoiled little brats. When we spend time with God in silence, we can’t stop thinking about when we can move on to our next meeting/meal/social activity. When God asks us to do something for Him, be it putting some money in the collection basket, being kind to someone we strongly dislike, or doing an extra chore to help someone out, we protest bitterly and do it grudgingly, if we do it at all. What ingrates we are!
I hate Lent because it is humiliating. It forces me to confront an ugly side of myself that I like to ignore. It makes me realize that I can get by on a lot less: a lot less food, a lot less screen time, a lot less pleasure. It helps me understand how I push God out of my life and replace Him with pathetic and phony substitutes that actually hurt me in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong: hot actors, hot chocolate, and Netflix are all good things if used wisely. That’s the key: once we become attached at the hip to them, all hell breaks loose in our spiritual lives. They essentially become our idols.
Make this Lent a different Lent, a better Lent, the best Lent you’ve ever had. There’s a reason Lent starts in the dark days of winter and ends in the glory of springtime (unless you’re in Texas—spring started there three months ago). Lent itself, and the practices we integrate into our lives, bring us from the darkness of our old selves into the light and beauty of a person transformed by grace, a person who is the best they can be.
Therefore, this Lent, think carefully about what you give up (or add), and ask yourself if it will bring you closer to God and more into kind of person you want to be. Giving up chocolate or even Facebook isn’t really going to do that. Why not give up complaining, gossiping, or negative self-talk? Why not start going to Adoration every Friday, pray a daily Rosary, or read Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen? Give away half your clothes to charity? Start tithing? Volunteer?
The possibilities are endless. Happy fasting. Aloha.