You know you run in certain nerdy church circles when your Facebook feed fills up with creative ways to observe the liturgical season of Lent. One meme that is making the rounds is a “Reverse Lent Challenge,” with the message that rather than giving something up (like the proverbial chocolate) you might consider taking something on, such as making a commitment to helping a family member or friend, writing notes to lonely folks, etc… It’s a nice idea to be sure.
As for me, I gave up giving up a long time ago. Well, that’s not actually exactly true. I do still take the opportunity of this season to look at my life and see what is getting in the way of a healthy relationship with God, others, and even self, and commit to making adjustments. The focus that helps me is not on what is given up, but rather what is gained. I also find this to be a very personal practice, and so I’ll be keeping to myself what I’ve chosen as my own personal Lenten practice(s).
We don’t have to go far to see what kind of fast it is that God seeks. This morning’s reading from Isaiah is one of my all time favorites, and makes it pretty clear:
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
This time of Lent is such a gift. It is a time set aside to reorder our priorities and to prepare our hearts, lives, and world for the joy of the resurrection.
If you are still sorting out your own Lenten practice, I highly recommend reading the Lenten message from Pope Francis. I’ve adopted his closing lines as my own Lenten prayer:
During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.
Blessings of peace as we ease into this Lenten season. May your heart (and my heart) be opened by God’s love to what is really important.