Saturday, 12 March 2011
Giving Things Up For Lent: Why? With suggestions of what to give up for Lent
Giving Things Up For Lent
The season that the prayers of the Church call "this joyful season" started last Wednesday. Have you thought yet about what to give up this Lent? How about one or more of: meat, alcohol, TV (maybe for one day a week at least), dessert, chocolate, unnecessary internet surfing, coffee, tea, computer games, cheese, your favourite TV soap opera, crisps, your favourite snack food, reading blogs, facebook, eating at restaurants, give up or restrict your use of your favourite radio station, limit yourself to one coffee per day. Why is Lent "joyful" when we are giving things up? Because it helps us orient ourselves to our true joy in God in heaven.
Why is it good for us to 'give things up for Lent'?
The practice of ‘giving something up for Lent’ is an important way of fasting. Fasting is good for us for five reasons: First, at a human level, like dieting, fasting disciplines our desires. Second, at a supernatural level, more than mere dieting, fasting is a prayer. It thus needs to be offered to God; ‘offer your very bodies as a living sacrifice acceptable to God’ (Rom 12:1). In particular, fasting is something we can offer in reparation for our sins. Third, fasting (and any form of penance) is also a means of detachment from the things of this world and attachment to the everlasting realities of the next. Fourth, fasting can free up our hearts to better enable us to love others. One way we do this is by the traditional Lenten practice of giving to the poor. Fifth, and most importantly, fasting unites us to Jesus: Jesus went into the desert and fasted and prayed for us for 40 days, in Lent we go into a spiritual desert to be with Jesus for 40 days of fasting and praying. Uniting ourselves to Jesus's suffering unitesus , above all, to His suffering on the Cross which is the path to the new life of the Resurrection, the new transforming life of grace within us.
Finally, this can be summed up by noting the Church’s threefold Lenten remedy for sin: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (giving to the poor). These three should all go together, not in opposition, i.e. it’s not enough to say, ‘Oh, I’m not giving up things, I’m doing something positive!’ Each of us would do well to add a small part of each of these three to our Lenten season: add a small prayer to your usual daily or weekly routine, give something up for Lent, and give some money to a good charity.