Carmen reflects on the spirit of Lent and whether we should focus our efforts on giving, receiving, or both.
“I know! I could give up chocolate milk, or maybe the colored lights in my bedroom. Just don’t let Daddy take them down.”
These comments came from my daughter Gemma several weeks ago as I broached the subject of Lent. I told her the hallmark practice of Lent is typically a sacrifice of some good or pleasure so we might be more attuned to our complete and utter dependence upon God. I offered a few examples for her, such as snacking after dinner or candy; or for me, my daily Southern Comfort with Diet Pepsi and lime (I’ll be honest: I didn’t even try).
As Gemma offered these two suggestions for her own Lenten sacrifice, I was struck by the depth of her ideas. She gets it, I thought. The spirit of Lent and sacrifice, she gets it. She most definitely understands better than last year when she suggested giving up listening to her parents for her Lenten sacrifice! She finally decided to give up her colored lights, though two days in she already wanted to change her mind. Even still, I cannot help but be in awe of her developing holiness. Truly, planting the seeds of faith can never begin too early!
Toward the end of February as Lent drew near, numerous Catholic websites and social media outlets put forth a plethora of suggestions for the faithful to prepare for and enter into Lent. While some called for a prayerful approach, such as “Lord, what do you want me to give up for Lent?” others offered a series of suggestions to help one “get more out of Lent!”
The headline of “getting more” out of Lent struck me in a particular way, like a billboard or commercial blaring across the TV attempting to appeal to the modern consumer. But anything related to “getting more” within the life of our faith requires a bit of nuance and reflection. Whether it’s Mass, personal prayer, acts of service, or our Lenten practices, our efforts will bear even greater fruit when ordered out of love for God and neighbor. The goal isn’t to GET something out of it, but rather to GIVE glory to the Lord and model His love to others.
Yet, as I continue to pray and reflect, I wonder: what if it’s both/and? Any effort to “get more” out of our faith, no matter where we fall in the liturgical calendar, can bring about a deeper conversion of the heart when met with “giving more”. Indeed, we can only give that which we have received! When we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus and continually strive after Him, this deepening connection is what inspires our prayer, service, or sacrifice. Maybe “getting more” out of this relationship means more peace, more joy, more compassion, more trust, more love, and more inspiration to give of ourselves in the service of others out of love for Christ.
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Our God is a God of lavish abundance, and he always desires to give us more. Truly, let us concentrate our efforts on “getting more” out of our relationship with Him and, in turn, “giving more” fruits of that relationship to the world. May this season in the desert draw you closer to Christ and enable you to rise amazed at His Resurrection on Easter Sunday!
Copyright 2022 Carmen Lappe
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About the Author
Carmen is a wife and mother of two in midwestern Iowa. She has a Master of Arts degree in Sacred Theology and has a special passion for writing about the grace of motherhood. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and exploring breweries and baseball stadiums across the country.