Lent, spring, and renewals

I know I’ve posted briefly about religion before, but it’s typically not a topic I cover in great detail. It tends to incite both the best and the worst in people, and I prefer to not rock the boat whenever possible. However, I am a Catholic, and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, so I’m pretty much obligated to talk about Lent, right?

Lent. Growing up, Lent was my least favorite time of year. It meant giving up candy and chocolate and soda. Once in the tenth grade, it even meant giving up the internet (shudder!) As I’ve grown up, I’ve tried some different things, all in the name of a “Lenten promise” and pretending to know God’s greater plan. Arguing theology with anyone who blatantly flaunted their “sacrifices” to me. I’ve refused to make a sacrifice, proclaiming God’s intentions not to be to sacrifice something trivial, but to become a better person. I’ve vowed to add things to my life, like exercise or community service (neither bad things…) asserting that I know better than history, tradition, and religion what exactly the intent of Lent truly is.

As I’ve been exploring my spirituality, my religion, and my relationship with God this year, I’ve started really thinking hard about the spirit of Lent. It hits especially close to home this year not only because of the changes going on in my personal life, but also because my father is currently participating in an RCIA program to become a baptized member of the Catholic church. Lent is all about renewing this baptismal promise, praying to become closer to God, and living a life in Christ’s image.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Catholics all over the world will flood the churches to hear the word of God, repent for our sins, and receive the mark of ashes on our foreheads. Ashes are a traditional symbol of repentance, and a tangible reminder of our own fate to someday return to the dust of the earth. It is an outward symbol of an innate need to know that nothing is permanent, and that by renewing your baptismal promise to God, Jesus, and the church, you are seeking to repent for your sins, and lead a more holy life.

Yes, Lent is also about giving something up, or making a sacrifice, but this doesn’t mean that you have to say goodbye to Mr. Goodbar or Babe Ruth. This sacrifice is about giving up the things that keep you from living a life devoted to Christ. Giving up the sins and transgressions that keep you from him. For many, this may mean giving up foods and treats that they are dependent upon, or that contribute to an unhealthy life. If your body is your temple, by all means treat it as one, and give up the chemicals and unnatural substances that chip away at the temple walls. But understand the meaning behind that sacrifice. That is what I have learned over time. It is not about sacrificing candy so that you can eat an Easter basket full when it is over, it is about making sacrifices and changes to live your life in His image.

Another Lenten tradition (at least in the Catholic church) is to celebrate the scrutinies. And it is not about scrutinizing one another, but being introspective about your own life, and your own relationship with Christ. It’s praying more, listening more, and strengthening your connection to God, just as you do in baptism. It’s alms-giving, and taking notice and care of others in need. It’s fasting, and allowing the hunger within to remind you to remain hungry for God in your life. It is so much more than children believe, and different than the mind of my rebel youth would have you believe.

This year, Lent for me is getting back to the basics, and renewing my relationship with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. This year I will celebrate Lent by both recognizing Christ’s sacrifice by making sacrifices of my own, as well as by improving my relationship with Him. And, I’ll stick to giving up soda, too.

As part of my journey to a better me, I’m going to enter Lent with renewed vigor to fulfill my promises to myself, and my family. My commitment to making the most out of the mind, body, soul, and life that I have been blessed with.

For Lent, I’m choosing prayer. I’m committing to doing a devotion each day to strengthen my relationship with God, and my understanding of His word.

I’m choosing sacrifice. I’m sacrificing worry any bitterness in exchange for trust in God and forgiveness. I’m sacrificing anger and discouragement for patience and hope. And, just to keep with the mainstream sacrifices, I’m also giving up sodas and sweets because those have definitely crept back into my diet a little bit more than I would like!

I’m choosing to fast. I will commit to abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday, Fridays during Lent, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

Above all else, I’m committed to celebrating the true spirit of Lent: the idea of spring (the meaning of the word, after all) renewing my promises to God and myself, and making positive changes to impact myself and the world. Do you celebrate Lent? What Lenten promises have you made for yourself this year?

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