Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent: More Than A Game

      I will admit. I am ready for Lent.  Not ready in the prepared sense, ready in the desperately need Lent sense.  Ready in the, I need a reminder to "turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel," sense.  And I suppose that requires another admittance, I have been far from exemplary in my faith practices.  I have been missing Mass, skipping prayers, and just generally not putting God first in my life.  Hopefully Lent will change that.

      For the last few years I have been very hesitant  to "give up," something for Lent.  The whole concept just seemed a bit cheesy to me.  First, there's the fact that the primary should be on regular sacrifice to God, and not on giving up some material thing like chocolate that I probably shouldn't have been eating in such quantities anyway.   Second, there's the fact that the whole "giving up" something thing was originally designed as a tangible way for young children to comprehend sacrifice.  Now I know there are times when a childlike faith is a good thing, but in this case it just seemed a bit watered down.  But then there was the real reason I didn't care for the whole giving-something-up deal: it became a game.  Instead of using the forty days for their intended purpose - growing closer to Christ, attempting to understand His sacrifice, and making a sacrifice of our own in solidarity with Him - the forty days became focused on the material item which had been given up.  People ask one another "what did you give up for Lent?" or brag about giving up something "really hard."  When we focus on the material aspect of giving up it seems that Lent loses its significance.  We become like the hypocrites in Matthew 6:5 instead of the humble sinner at the crucifixion asking Jesus to "remember me when you come into your kingdom."

         Now before you go off declaring me a heretic, or remind me to head to confession before receiving the Eucharist let me make the final admittance - I've had a bit of a change of heart.  A game is not a game without players.  And so Lent won't be a game unless we make it one.  So, I do intend to give up something for Lent.  I just don't plan to broadcast what it is to everyone I know.  Or to remind everyone I meet that I'm skipping meat on Friday or fasting on Ash Wednesday.  I'm trying to focus my Lent on the ultimate goal - that when we celebrate the Resurrection I will be remembered in His Kingdom, and that when I leave this life I will be welcomed to eternal celebration.