Previously posted 2/6/08
Growing up, I tended to dread Lent because it usually meant 40 days of no sweets, or dessert, or television. I was expected to pray more, be nicer to my siblings, or stop being such a procrastinator. It was never fun, and I counted down the days until Easter Sunday.
Only in the last few years have I really begun to understand what this liturgical season offers. Just like I appreciate January 1st and the promise of a New Year, I like how Lent offers me the gift of spiritual renewal. I realize that we should strive for spiritual growth on a daily basis, but on a basic human level I need the emphasis and reminder that Lent provides.
During Lent I am more aware of trying to pray more, or attending daily mass, or spending some time in the adoration chapel. And yes, observing Lent also means offering up little sacrifices.
Why sacrifice? In today's world of instant gratification, giving up a luxury or a meal is a reminder of our many blessings. When we fast--from food or a certain behavior--the deprivation keeps us grounded and helps us not become too attached to worldly things. It also serves to reminds us that what we do without for just these forty days is, in fact, a way of life for many.
Offering up a sacrifice is also an excellent means of learning self-discipline...especially for children. It's good to learn that we can't have everything we want anytime we want. And by learning to say "no" to the little things, maybe it will help with bigger temptations.
During Advent we witnessed the joy of Christ's birth, but during the Lenten Season we are called to actively participate in Christ's life.
"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). With those words we are called to walk in His ways, and our little sacrifices enable us to participate (in a very teeny, tiny way) in Christ's suffering as he headed to that cross on Calvary.
Easy? Not for me. But Christ's ultimate sacrifice led to His glorious resurrection, and I know that by participating in these 40 days of Lent I can better appreciate the fullness of the celebration on Easter morning.