A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were discussing Lent and the different ways that we could make it the best one yet. What could we offer up? Why do we offer things up? Why am I always trying to choose convenience when it’s ONLY 40 DAYS?
Hence, a blog post.
There is an important emphasis on Lent that is often forgotten, but helpful in order to understand the journey of 40 days: the renewal of the baptismal commitment. This is at the heart of Lenten practices, which was emphasized by the Catholic Church and the Second Vatican Council. Lent is an opportunity to re-emphasize and renew our Baptismal vows. Why? In the fourth century, there were 3 sources that culminated into the 40 day fast and the preparation of the community with those entering into the Catholic Church.
- Paschal fast: This fast was a two-day observance before Easter, but it was lengthened to the 40 days that we practice together today. This is based on Christ’s own journey in the dessert for 40 days and the temptations from the devil that he experienced.
- Catechumenate: This is the process of preparation for Baptism, which includes an intense preparation period leading up to the Sacrament of Initiation celebrated at Easter.
- Order of Penitents: This was formed for those who had fallen into serious sin after Baptism and offered an opportunity for all penitents and the rest of the community to repent of wrongdoings and to join those preparing for Baptism on the journey of preparation to renew our baptismal vows at Easter.
So, the Lenten season merged these 3 aspects of the Catholic Church and is now a journey for all of us to repent, grow, and suffer with Christ on His agonizing journey to the Cross – a symbol of intense, self-sacrificing, merciful love. It seems so ironic that our freedom is experienced through suffering, but that is the great power of Cross and the redemptive love of Our Lord for each one of us. It’s incredible to reflect upon!
Why do we offer things up?
The #classicCatholic response to so many things: “Offer it up!”. But there’s truth in this statement. Lent is a beautiful time for us to enter ever more deeply into union with Christ and to unite our own suffering with His own. It’s not all about feelings and being comfy cozy wherever we are literally and figuratively. We are meant for so much more than “feeling good”! It is an opportunity to examine our lives and to figure out what areas we need to shine a light into the dark corners of our lives, remove the cobwebs and prepare a space for Our Risen King. This goes beyond giving up chocolate – what bad habits do you struggle with? What is something that weighs heavily on your heart? What frustrates you? Angers you? Causes anxiety within you?
Offering up during the Lenten season is an opportunity to take our clenched up fists and surrender to God, by offering Him our struggles and giving Him the opportunity to allow healing of mind, body & soul. Just a little less clenching and whispering to let Him in is all He needs to do the work. He needs your “Yes!”.
St. Padre Pio once said: “You complain because the same trials are constantly returning. But look here, what have you to fear? Are you afraid of the divine craftsman who wants to perfect His masterpiece in this way? Would you like to come from the hands of such a magnificent Artist as a mere sketch and no more?” (1/1/1921)
Allow Him to perfect you, work on you, and create His beautiful masterpiece – that’s you! What a gift of such wonderful & awesome Love!
What can I offer up?
Just because it’s Ash Wednesday, doesn’t mean it’s too late to offer something up, work on a bad habit, or unclench your fist a little bit and surrender to Him.
There are so many ways in which we can give to the Lord, but this isn’t about what everyone else is doing. This is really about YOU. So, forget about the loopholes & commit to that one thing that you are doing and give it your all. What’s the worst that could happen? You learn healthy ways of spending? You’re not as addicted to sugar? You say 5 kind things for every one frustrated comment? Oh, for shame! Not becoming a better human being?! But really… This is tough work. We’re all masterpieces and we need refining to become the best we can be. What do you struggle with? What holds you back? What are you anxious about? What weighs heavily on your heart?
God can work in you and through you in so many beautiful ways if you allow Him to. Examine your heart and ask for guidance, so you determine how you can grow during this great season of Lent.
You don’t need a list and it’s not about self-improvements. It’s about becoming the best version of yourself!
If you’re in need of some tips and resources, Life Teen offers a great post on different ways to sacrifice this Lenten season.
Matthew Kelly offers daily emails that are awesome, doable, and incredibly reflective. Best Lent Ever is one of my favorite (free!) programs offered during Lent.
Whatever you decide, invite God in and allow Him to work. He can do incredible, incredible things if you open your heart up just a little bit.
Come, Holy Spirit!