Walking Our Faith: What are you giving up for Lent? (column)
Walking Our Faith
On Tuesday, a memorial service was held to honor Father Michael at our Lady of Peace, the church he had faithfully served both as a pastor and then as an example of how suffering can lead us closer to Christ.
The last time I spoke with Father Michael was at his retirement party. When I sat down next to him to share my gratitude and love for him, he replied with words of consolation and encouragement to me. That’s one small example of his generosity and love for his Summit County parish and his embrace of the journey God had given him.
Father Michael was only 55 years old when he passed from this life into the loving arms of Jesus Christ. He had bravely battled brain cancer for three years. But it is not the illness that will define his life and his legacy but the courage and grace with which he faced it and how he used his trial to discover a relationship with God that might never have been possible otherwise. We miss Father Michael and we are so grateful for his presence in our lives.
The days of our life pass too quickly, no matter how many years we live. Lent is the perfect time to stop and consider how we spend our days and what meaning our lives will have. The courage with which Father Michael faced his last three years, filled with suffering, seeking God in prayer, giving of his limited time to his parishioners, provides us with a priceless example as we enter the Lenten season.
The seven weeks between now and Easter are characterized by fasting, alms giving, and prayer. Today we’ll consider the meaning of fasting, and over the next two weeks we’ll discuss giving of ourselves, and prayer.
In the past, giving up something for Lent seemed a shallow gesture to me. But this year I see it as a means of giving up things which are obstacles to a closer relationship with God and of becoming the best version of myself, which means the version God created me to be. Lent is the perfect time to strip away the things that keep us from both of those goals.
One night a couple weeks ago, I was standing in my kitchen and I looked at the clock, it was 7 p.m. and I thought, I should have a glass of wine. I didn’t crave wine, but my nightly glass of wine had become two and then two and a half-ish, not because I enjoyed the wine but because it was a habit. As I thought about Lent, I knew this was something I wanted to give to God, and so I’m giving up red wine, the only alcohol I drink, for Lent.
I’m also giving up the hours I spend listening to political talk shows each day. I listen and then head to the Facebook page of a friend who holds the opposite political views and share my “wisdom,” knowing full-well this will result in a few hours of righteous indignation, which leave me feeling frustrated as I head to bed. Yet, I turn on political news the next morning and it begins again. Is this the person I want to be?
Can I spend those hours seeking a closer relationship with God by reading my Bible or spiritual reading, praying or writing? Can I be a better friend or more generous in helping those in need? At the end of this Lenten season will I find myself closer to God and the person he created me to be, if I do?
Let’s use this year’s Lent to consider how we spend our days. To remove those things that waste our time, that make us feel worse rather than better.
Now is the time to see what our life would be like without things which cause us pain and cause pain for our family and friends.
When we eliminate these barnacles, we create room for better things and relationships which bring us joy.
What would you remove from your life? What obstacle is keeping you from a closer relationship with God and a closer relationship with your family and friends? Can you give up that thing just until Easter?
Send me an email and let me know what sacrifice you want to offer up to God for Lent and why. And then let’s walk this Lenten journey together and see what we discover. I believe God will honor our sacrifice with special graces and a closer relationship with him.
Suzanne lives in Breckenridge. Her books are available at Next Page Books and Nosh. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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