giving up something for Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, our church having a service tonight to begin Lent, symbolizing what our Lord has done for us in his death on the cross, and our repentance with ashes. I am a late comer to keeping (loosely) the church calendar year, but I think the more the better for me on that.

At the same time it is still a bit of a head scratcher to me when people talk about giving up something for Lent. Especially when they share what it might be. Seemingly meaningless, at least to my ears. Perhaps chocolate, or something else which seems trivial.

It’s interesting that the time of Lent stretching to Easter incorporates 40 church days, 46 overall on the calendar. It is thought that to rid one’s self of an old habit and start a new, takes around six weeks, or 40 days.

Actually Lent is to be a time of reflection on our Lord and his sacrifice of love for us and for the world. And a renewal of our commitment in faith to follow him. That renewal for us inevitably in this world involves ongoing repentance. So whatever one might choose to give up if one decides to keep this tradition, needs to be in that spirit and understanding.

There are certain sins which beset many of us, sins which we may easily fall into or may even have us in their grip. They may seem small and nagging, yet all sin looms large when it comes to real life, and the impact on it. Often they are sins which in one way or another violate love. And in a sense all sins do. I think here of love to God first, and then love to our neighbor as ourselves.

We could list sins. Some are noted today, even considered unavoidable by many. And then others are accepted with the idea that everyone does it. And then others are oh so subtle. They may even be couched with some good intentions. Or there may be good along with what is not good.

The question being, are we following our Lord truly in what we are doing? And if not, then we should repent of it, seek the Lord so as to follow him afresh, looking for no less than a change of heart along with practice.

And we need to occupy ourselves with something new in place of the old.   Just the thought of how we are following Jesus is a good one for this. It will end up something in terms of love and obedience to him and his commands. There ought to be in our hearts a desire to want to please him. This is not just a religious practice, but one of commitment and devotion to God in God’s love to us in Jesus.

Of course this is all grace. If one makes a commitment, but fails along the way, that is an opportunity then and there to repent and go on. Perhaps what you gave up is only temporary, so that you can strengthen your focus on our Lord. That is of course well and good, also.

I think I know what I’ll give up, starting today. In my case I may be able to go back to it, but it can become a sin to me. Part of the change God is working in me. As along with others in Jesus we follow on in this life in the way of the cross as those who by the Spirit begin to share in his resurrection with the hope of the full resurrection to come.

4 comments on “giving up something for Lent

  1. jill alexander says:

    I have just come back from the Ash Wednesday service at Mass. The palms from last year’s Palm Sunday are burnt and the ashes are mixed with Holy Oil and then the priest makes the sign of the cross on our foreheads. We are supposed to wear them there until they wear off.

    I like lent. To me it is the highlight of the church’s year, leading up to Easter. I must admit I don’t ‘give up’ anything as it’s too easy to choose alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate or something you know you should anyway for health reasons. We are encouraged not to give up, but do something positive instead. Must say I usually fail.

    I feel that for me, the ritual of the church’s year is important, as are the sacraments. I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Maybe it’s because I need more props than some people.

    • Thanks, Jill. I’m sure you have a better understanding of that aspect of the church than I, by far.

      I think it’s not so much about what we give up, but a renewed focus on what Christ gave up for us in his coming and death. Our realization of our need for that. As well as anticipation of God’s promise in Jesus through the resurrection.

      Though I do think at times God may lead us to give something up, even if only temporarily.

  2. Deborah says:

    I agree, why not add something to our lives for forty days that will be a pleasing aroma to God by knowing Him better. 15 minutes every morning before anything else just to spend that time in the Word and alone with Him in prayer.

    Hosea 6:3,6 He does not seem to want our sacrifices but for us to know Him better and better. How wonderful to know that God wants us to know Him more than anything else in our lives.

    • Thanks, Deborah. I tend to want to stay away from any new rule I’ve made. In my case this year I thought of something which I would do well to leave behind at this point. Laying it at Christ’s feet, so to speak.

      To find Christ, to know him ends up making nothing at all a sacrifice, to be sure. (Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3).

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