On Lenten sacrifice
Jake Bebar | Wednesday, February 22, 2012
This morning, I read “Lenten Promises: A How-To Guide,” (Feb. 20) by Ms. O’Donnell, and although I appreciate the reminder for Lenten sacrifice, I must respectfully disagree with a few points.
The article’s first “how-to” is to “one-up your friends”. I deeply discourage doing so, as the Lenten season is not a contest. By viewing it as a competition (even for the intention of giving up more), we shelter ourselves from the deep meaning and spirituality of Lent, and instead focus only on the physical and materialistic side. Lent should be used to become closer to Christ, and all actions should have Him as our motivation.
The article continues, suggesting that we “make sure everyone knows” what we’re giving up. I had a conversation with a close friend last year who asked me why so many people went around telling what they were giving up. She pointed me towards Matthew 6:17-18, “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” Our Lenten sacrifices should not be announced to all our friends, and definitely not Facebook or Twitter, as suggested, for everyone to see. Bishop Gilberto Fernandez (previous auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami, who passed away last September) stated, “Our sacrifice is not intended to feed our pride, but to follow Christ more closely and serve those in great need.” On the other hand, I completely support having an accountability partner for the Lenten season: someone who can be there for you and pray for you when struggling in your fast.
The next suggestion: “Don’t give up something you need” is definitely a true statement, but the examples listed completely obscure the meaning of “need.” If you “cannot function without a morning cup of coffee/tea/Diet Coke,” Lent is the perfect time to rid yourself of this addiction. These things are absolutely not necessary; at least use this time to cut back on them. Ending the explanation with “your wallet will also thank you” brings about another point. The purpose of this is not to save money! Everything that we are committing to accomplish during Lent should be solely for God.
As for Sundays, we should definitely not fast, as the Church explicitly declares Sunday as a day of feasting. However, this “Sunday free pass” is not permissible in all situations. If you are giving up a sin (such as pride, arrogance, lust, etc.), you should not give yourself Sunday as a day off. Originally, Sundays were a time of feasting in contrast with the major fasting that used to occur, but nowadays, very few truly fast during the whole season of Lent. It does not really apply if we are giving up a small specific food, such as chocolate.
We need to truly view Lent for what is was meant to be, and when Easter comes and our fasting is over, we should rejoice in our Lord’s resurrection! We should not rejoice in the sweet taste of chocolate that we have missed for so long!
So yes, give up something that will be difficult for you or strive to help out and give back to the community as Ms. O’Donnell states in her final point. Just make sure that your sacrifice is between you and God, and that you are doing it for God, not for other people. And when you struggle, do not underestimate the power of prayer.