Easter approaches—how is your Lent going?

It’s not too late to make a new beginning, focusing on the purpose of small sacrifices we make

By Deacon Bob Hunt

Here we are in mid-March, and Lent is already two-thirds through. Easter is only a couple of weeks away. How’s your Lent going?

Lent is somewhat like New Year’s. We make resolutions for the New Year, and by mid-February we have to reassess to see how we’re doing with those resolutions. Sometimes, the news is good. Sometimes, the news is not so good. Sometimes, we would just rather forget about it, or already have.

The good news about Lenten resolutions, or promises of more prayer, more charitable works, more sacrificial giving, is that each day offers an opportunity to begin again. “Now is the day of salvation,” St. Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 6:2). So, no matter how poorly we’ve been doing with our Lenten practices, today is the time to start anew.

What is the purpose of Lent, after all? It’s easy to get caught up in the “rules” following the practices of fasting and abstinence, or focus inordinately on what we are going to “give up” for Lent. The intention of the Church is not to cause anxiety over dietary restrictions or expectations of increased prayer or giving. It is to use these things to make us ever more conscious of our Lord’s love for us and our relationship with Him.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m preparing a meal, or even just a sandwich or grabbing a doughnut from the fridge (yes, I like my doughnuts cold), there’s not much going on in my mind about what I’m doing. Unless the meal is a special one that requires attention to detail, my mind is either in neutral or considering any number of a vast array of matters, from personal to political, financial to familial, serious to ridiculous. I don’t have to think about what I’m preparing or how to prepare it. I’ve done it a million times, so my mind simply goes into auto mode when preparing the food.

The Lenten practices of fasting and abstinence, however, demand that I think about what I’m doing when I prepare a meal or grab a snack. And what am I to think about? Jesus. Fixing a meal during Lent means thinking about Jesus. Who is He to me? What is my relationship with Him? How can I deepen that relationship? How can I better serve Him? How can I give Him thanks for all He has done for me? How can I transform my will so that it more perfectly reflects His?

There’s a lot more there than simply following a rule. The rule is to remind us of what Lent is all about, and what Lent is all about is being conscious of our Lord’s love for us and our relationship with Him. It’s a simple thing, even mundane, making a sandwich or preparing a meal. But Christ has transformed the mundane into the extraordinary. Every moment is a moment of grace because every moment is infused with His presence and His saving action.

Another critical aspect of Lent is penance. Fasting and abstinence are part of this, too, of course. It can be a sacrifice for many of us even to be only a little uncomfortable, to feel those hunger growls in our belly, or to do without our favorite meat for dinner. This is the heart of “giving up something for Lent.”

Christ gave so much for us, yet we still offend Him with our sins. The traditional penitential practices of Lent, fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, can bring us closer to Christ by challenging us to put Him first, before our physical wants.

Sacrificing some measure, even if only a small one, to turn our thoughts and hearts to Christ, can be transformative.

The practices of giving up (in terms of food, time, or other pleasures) and giving more (in terms of time, talent, treasure, and prayer) reflect our desire to share, if only in some tiny way, in the great sacrifice Christ made for us. It’s not much to ask. Really, it ought to be the focus of the life of a Christian every day, not just during Lent. Which, I think, is also the point of Lent. Each Lent should bring us closer to Christ, so that when Easter arrives, we are no longer the believer we were on Ash Wednesday. We have grown in our relationship with Jesus, deepened our prayer life, and become more generous with our time, talent, and treasure.

Regardless of how well or poorly your Lent has gone so far, decide today to make a new Lenten beginning, focusing on the purpose of the small sacrifices we make: to transform us ever more closely into the image of our Lord.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.


Deacon Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville.


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