If you are anything like me, you may be guilty of thinking about Lent as a second chance at New Year’s resolutions. In years past, I have been known to think “I want to lose a few pounds…why don’t I give up sweets for Lent – kill two birds with one stone?”
While there certainly would be nothing wrong with my health goals – somehow abstaining from sweets primarily for this purpose misses the point of Lent.
During Lent, we recognize that Christ died for our sins. When we give up something during Lent, we make an offering as a sign of repentance. Each time that we, for example, drive in silence instead of playing our favorite radio station, we are expressing our desire to unite with Christ in His sacrifice.
In our American culture, so focused on goals and self-improvement, it can be difficult to remember the reason for our sacrifices. For some, giving up chocolate, wine or television sports each year may truly bring to mind Christ’s sacrifice for us. Others may find (as I have) that it is helpful to focus on something that would be a particular sacrifice at this specific time in our life. In this way we recognize that Christ came specifically for each one of us, personally.
Some of the unique sacrifices I have heard recently include:
- From the Shopper: giving up shopping for oneself (and tithing the money saved)
- From the person who forgets to keep in touch: Calling one person per day, usually someone whom he/she hasn’t been in touch with for some time, and asking how he/she can pray for them, then sharing some way that they can pray for him/her
- From the Fashion conscious: Picking out only five outfits and wearing them the entirety of Lent
- From the Late-Riser: Giving up pressing the snooze button!
- From someone who easily criticizes: Refraining from speaking negatively about family members
- From someone who means to pray more…: Eating lunch at one’s desk in order to have time to attend daily Mass on lunch breaks
- From the Socialite: Giving up Facebook/Twitter/My Space and instead spending the time doing spiritual reading
- From the person who forgets to be grateful: thanking God each night for five new positive things
These are just a few examples of Lenten practices that are particularly sacrificial to the people who chose them. Have you heard of others to add to the list?