As I have been in various conversations with people the last few weeks and reminded them that Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, falls on February 10, the common response has been, ‘Wow, Easter is really early this year.” I was thinking about this as I began to see friends on Facebook make the posting that they were giving up Facebook for Lent to spend time in reflection and quiet personal contemplation.
The idea of giving something up for Lent does not fit with my theological perspective about the role of Jesus who becomes the Christ in his human example as he lived and moved among the people of his time. I understand the penitential nature of denying oneself and using that as the focus of reflection on the sacrifice made on Good Friday. But I think that Jesus took on a larger role in obeying the will of his Divine Parent. So I tend to add something to my life that is meaningful for Lent that will be of benefit to the world or those around me. And to be honest, many people I know give up things that seem to be a very small sacrifice. If they are giving something up to spend more time in reflection and prayer, wouldn’t it be a more meaningful purpose to add that time to a busy schedule as a mark of intentionality about engaging in a sacrificial act?
I am not criticizing anyone’s Lenten discipline. Any act that draws us closer to God and allows us to become more knowledgeable about our own faith values and spend more time in prayer and reflection is a good and faithful act. But I do wonder about the internal negotiation in giving up something so something can be added. I have been musing about how many people who might give up chocolate for Lent (a very common choice) will find some other thing this year so that they can still enjoy the Valentine candy they might receive from loved ones. Giving up something we love does not increase our love for God in our daily lives. So I encourage you to consider the theological foundation for whatever you deny or add this Lenten season. My prayer is that it will increase your faith and love and knowledge of the One who holds us in eternal love.