Ash Wednesday is only two weeks away! Unlike last year, I’m trying to figure out what to “give up” ahead of time.
The only requirements for Lent is fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstinence on Fridays throughout Lent. The practice of giving something up is what I grew up with though, so I feel awkward doing without.
I remember in (public) elementary school that Lent was the first time that I identified as Catholic. It was also the first time I identified some of my friends as Catholic, too. We’d sit at the lunch table and bounce ideas off of each other.
Back then though, we saw Lent as a time that Jesus took something away from us (chocolate, junk food, TV, and for one brave girl I knew in middle school: makeup). Today, I know a lot of people who still see it that way. It wasn’t until I went through RCIA that I learned that one should focus more on what to offer up – like a sacrifice.
It wasn’t until more recently (like last Sunday recent) that I realized that at it’s core, the Mass itself is literally a sacrifice as of old. It was a slight shift in perspective that is makes me excited for this upcoming Lenten season.
In the new translation, the priest now says “my sacrifice and yours” and it makes me feel more committed to the mass somehow. This isn’t just any bread and wine being offered, it’s mine. In a really beautiful way, I feel closer to God’s chosen people of biblical times.
That feeling of ownership is now being carried over to my Lenten sacrifice. I don’t want to offer a sacrifice of my time, talent, or treasure because I have to. I want to give the Lord something of myself the way a child eagerly gives his mother a drawing he made: with joy and pure love.
The church teaches us that prayer, acts of self-denial, almsgiving, and works of personal charity are types of penance, so I’m working on using that as a starting point.
So for example, I could sacrifice an hour every day to going to the gym, so I can glorify the Lord by making holy my temple.
Or, I may want to offer an additional daily prayer (the Chaplet of the Precious Blood, for example) so that my heart can grow in its capacity to love the Lord.
I encourage you do to the same. Find something of yourself that you can give to the Lord not so he can take it away, but so that He can use your offering to multiply His blessings.