It seems we just packed up the Christmas decorations, but Lent is around the corner! Next Wednesday, Feb. 10, is Ash Wednesday. As you kick off your 40 day fast, remember the “gift of limits.” You have a chance to do something special here, something you may not be able to commit to or sustain for years, but that you can commit to for 40 days.
I know giving up something like sweets, alcohol, snacks or t.v. is no longer in vogue, but there is a reason “giving up” has been part of our tradition for so long. While no one thinks that giving up chocolate is more important than giving up gossip, making some kind of physical sacrifice helps both your mind and body be aware that this is a special time devoted to something (Someone) much greater than our physical (or entertainment) desires. Every time you think of that thing that you want and then make that small sacrifice, you acknowledge the goodness of that thing but recognize the greater goodness of God. It’s old-fashioned, yeah, I know, but it works like a charm! Plus it is a concrete way we tell God, “I’m willing to give up something for you, like you gave up something for me.” When you think about it that way, giving up sweets or lattes seems remarkably easy.
If there is something you want to do such as give up gossip, or visit the sick, or attend an extra Mass per week, then by all means do those good things. We should all adopt such a spiritual practice, which offers a true fast, so very pleasing to God (Isa. 58:6-7). But find some small material sacrifice as well, something that keeps reminding you – body and soul – that you are setting your mind and heart on something even higher than the very good things of this wonderful world.
As a child once told me, “We give something up because he gave up everything for us.”