When we were younger, our Lenten promises were often a candy fast, ice cream cleanse, or even a break from pop. As we have gotten older, maybe we've tried giving up sweets altogether. Hopefully as you’ve gotten older, you have come to realize that this time isn’t so much a time for giving up a certain type of unhealthy food—or restraining from unhealthy habits—but rather a time for you to recognize what is getting in the way of growing closer to Christ, and putting in the effort to eliminate that roadblock.
Being on my own this semester, Lent has not only crept up on me quickly, but has me thinking much more intently about just what it is I will offer up as my Lenten promise. Being in college allots for a much different type of spiritual life with no parents to drive you to church, no weekly youth group meetings, and no family dinners to pray before. It takes more effort to keep up with my prayer life, more dedication to make it to Mass each Sunday, and more humility to practice my faith and be a light to my peers.
I have found myself stumbling recently, over things of the world; over things set in my path to set my astray. And though my eyes are set on things above, my feet are steering me amiss. This season is all about detaching ourselves from the comforts of this world so that we can cling only to Christ, the source of our fullness of life.
I think that this year, Lent is my opportunity to be driven by a goal to create in myself and in others an enthusiasm for the faith. I do not think I will do this by giving up carbs or coffee, but rather by prioritizing my faith through things that distract me from my faith.
As the ashes cross your forehead, placed by the thumb of a brother or sister in Christ, you are reminded to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. And not only do these words mark the beginning of Lent, they also reveal its purpose. Lent isn’t about giving up chocolate, ice cream, or social media. At its heart, Lent is about turning away from sin, and being faithful to the Gospel. I can assure you that turning away from sin, if you’ve ever tried it, is harder than it might seem, but fear not: no one achieves Mother-Teresa-level-holiness overnight. It’s a journey—but so is Lent.
Lent symbolizes Jesus' 40 days in the desert, fasting and preparing for his public ministry. Likewise, this time should be spent for us, as a time of preparation and purpose-planning. Lent is an opportunity to start or revisit and better establish your relationships with God and those around you, all to better serve him.
Throughout this season, may you fall back on the words from Matthew 6:16-18, where it is stated:
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
I also urge you to remember that there is reason for the suffering and that it will bring you closer to Christ. Use this season to foster peace within, enthusiasm of spirit, and humility in your heart. Whatever you choose to promise this Lent, allow God to help you commit to it.