Throughout my Catholic upbringing, the word Lent always called to mind the act of giving up unnecessary things that bring pleasure. Year after year, I would sacrifice chocolate, ice cream, television or soda. While I would adhere to every sacrifice, each Lenten season would pass by and I still felt entirely unchanged. I kept asking myself, “what has this to do with faith?”
You see, a crucial element was missing in every one of my Lenten sacrifices. There existed a fatal disconnect between the sacrificed item and the God who loves me so. I was mindlessly giving up these small pleasures of life, and sure – I was probably eating healthier and spending my time more wisely – but was I diving deeper into my faith? Was I coming to know the God of the Universe who died for you and for me? No. Not yet.
While our intentions may be good and pure, the Lord wants so much more than mindless offerings. Of course, He sees and loves our efforts to abandon pleasure and practice self-denial. Yet, more than anything, He simply wants to be in deep communion with each one of us. If we sacrifice these pleasures but do not invest time into a genuine relationship with Him, it is all for naught. To enter into a deeper union with Him, we must strive to let the Lord into our daily lives. He wants to know the anxieties that weigh heavily on your mind. He wants to know what brings you joy and consolation. He wants to know what wounds are aching, and how He may carry you through. Bring these things to Him; it is all He has ever wanted.
Today, on Ash Wednesday, the new Lenten season will begin. Let us enter this season of sacrifice with a renewed understanding of who we are and what we were made for: a relationship with the Lord. As we discern what Lenten promise will challenge us to grow in our faith, let us remember that the Lord does not just want us to give things up. He wants us to give our entire selves over to Him in all things that we do.
Wherever you currently are in your faith journey, take the next step closer to Christ during this Lenten season. This could mean committing to 20 minutes of prayer a day. It could mean attending a weekday mass or two. It may mean giving over a particular anxiety to Him each day. Find whatever will draw you into a closer union with God, and do just that in this season of sacrificial love.