Ready or not, here it comes. Lent – a season for Christians that often brings thoughts of (sometimes unwilling) sacrifice. Let me guess: every year you think you should give up something that will be A) difficult, B) life-changing, and C) creative, yet often think about how difficult the rest of the season is going to be.
Lent is one of my favorite liturgical seasons. I used to think that Lent was just a really sad time where we have to say “no” to everything. It was just a time of sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice. I’ve come to realize that it’s a lot more than that – it’s an opportunity to say “yes” to the will of God and the love of Christ.
Lent is about stretching ourselves. It’s about doing something that’s uncomfortable in order to deny our flesh and make more room for God.
I’ve compiled a list of last-minute ideas to sacrifice from and add to your life. I hope it helps and I hope it blesses your Lent this year.
- Your bed
- Don’t take the best spot available in the parking lot
- Your car radio
- Wear the first outfit you put on every morning
- Hot showers
- Being late
- Escalators and elevators
- Snooze button on your alarm clock
- Online shopping
- Snacking between meals
- Being selfish. Give away something every single day, be it time, money, or something you own
- Greed. Don’t buy anything besides the essentials
- Laziness. Give up TV and commit to going on a walk every day.
- If you’re judgmental, pray for every person you see
- If you’re vain, give up make up or your mirror
- Using the word “can’t.”
- Eating meat and/or animal products
- Telling yourself you’re fat and stupid. And anything less than the truth that you’re amazing and loved.
- Hiding your faith from those around you. It’s Lent. Share what God is doing in your life these 40 days
- Addictions (alcohol, smoking, porn, masturbation, caffeine…)
- Social media
- Road rage
- Fasting (only one full meal a day)
- No takeout or delivery
- Staying up late. Give yourself a bed time.
- Sleeping in. Set an alarm.
Replace the time you’d be doing the above with…
- Daily mass
- A chapter of the Bible a day. You can get through all 4 Gospels if you read 2 chapters a day.
- 10 minutes of meditation a day
- Join a Bible study at your parish
- The Rosary–a decade or even a whole Rosary each day
- Stop by an adoration chapel on your way home each day
- Go to confession–every week, every other week, for the first time in 30 years….
- Pray the Stations of the Cross
- Get up early to pray
- List 5 things you’re grateful for every day
- Be intentional about your time–make a schedule and stick to it
- Go to an art museum or a botanical gardens once a week and just rejoice in beauty
- Pick a virtue to strive for each day
- Say 3 nice things about yourself every day
- Listen to Catholic Answers while you drive
- Donate the money you would have spent on whatever you’re fasting from
- Spend the time you would have spent watching TV with your family
- Visit a nursing home
- Save up all your change (and maybe even your singles) and give them to charity
- Write letters to your grandparents
- Call your mother
- Volunteer once a week–soup kitchen, shoveling snow, the nursery at church, whatever!
- Give someone a compliment every day
- Take someone to lunch every week–a lonely coworker, a neighbor you don’t always love, one of your children
- Perform an act of charity every day–do the dishes when it’s not your turn, pick up litter
- Take something on — 40 days of letter writing, 40 acts of kindness, 40 phone calls to the important people in your life
- Get some friends together and attend a Friday fish fry at a local parish
- Do a 40-day purge of all your excess stuff and donate the best of it to Goodwill or a local thrift store that benefits the needy in your community
- If you are giving up social networking (like Facebook and Twitter), commit the next 40 days to getting to know your friends better in person
In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes,
“Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”
Perhaps when we fast from this indifference, we can began to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. Jesus—the great protagonist of this holy season—certainly showed us the way.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” It’s a question a lot of people will get these next few days. If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol and candy is the way to go. If you want to change your mind, perhaps more discipline. But if you want to change your heart, a harder fast is needed.
It will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free.
Now that’s something worth fasting for.