What would you say if I told you that you may be “doing” Lent all wrong? Too often when we think about Lent, we focus on what we are giving up or doing for Lent to become a better person. There have been many times in my life that I would wonder what I should be doing or giving up for Lent, and I just didn’t really have a strong sense of what I should be doing. This would usually end up with me not really doing anything, or doing something trivial, and at the end of Lent, I would feel like I wasn’t really a changed person, so what was the point? I just listened to a wonderful video by Father Mark Toups that challenged me to completely change the way I have been thinking about Lent.
I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice
Fr. Toups explained that the word sacrifice comes from the Latin word sacra, which means “holy” or “set apart”, and facere, which means “offer”, so to sacrifice really means to to make a holy offering to God. That is- an offering of ourselves, our hearts, our lives to God. This is what sacrifice is supposed to be about. Not so we can say that we were so disciplined and love God so much that we gave up chocolate for 40 days, but so that we can give to Him the one thing that He truly wants- ourselves! He wants a true relationship with us! He wants us to give up ourselves in total surrender, so that He can in turn can give us His mercy and love in order to transform our lives!
What’s the Point?
It’s not that disciplining self, and giving up sweets and special foods are not good things to do. In fact, Jesus does tell us to fast, and the Church sets apart certain times such as Lent to be a time of fasting. Yet, the purpose of fasting is so that we can be more humble and open to His grace, surrending our lives to God so that He can work. When we forget this surrender and focus on the acts of the discipline, as if we are earning His grace-we miss the whole point of the fasting. It is only a means to an end. If it is not helping us achieve our end, what good is it?
What Do You Want?
Fr. Toups says several times throughout the video, “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you will get the same results.” He is trying to get us to see that we need to let go of our previous ways of thinking about and observing Lent, and strive for something different. He is constantly asking, “What is it that you want from God this Lent?” Today, I extend this message as well and ask you; What do you want from God this Lent? Do you believe that He wants you to encounter Him in a way that you have never experienced Him before?
I encourage you to watch the video linked below as Father Toups had many more beautiful gems to consider. What did you think? What stood out to you?
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.~ Joel 2:12-13