If you’re Catholic, without a doubt you’ll be asked, “What are you giving up?”
And, 99% of the time the answer will come back, “Chocolate!”
Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good fast as much as the next guy (unless that guy is St. Francis).
But I believe there’s more productive things to do during Lent than giving up chocolate–and I’m going to tell you why!
Lent…it’s like training camp
Lent is like spiritual training camp.
Every summer, football teams go to training camp. It’s an intense time when they work out extra hard to get in shape for the regular season. They do conditioning, drill the fundamentals, work on key skills, and scrimmage.
They do all these things during the season too, but training camp is intensive training. It gets them really ready for the big games.
During Lent, we’re in intensive training for the big day–Easter! That’s the highest celebration of the whole year. We have to be ready.
What do you work on during Lent?
During Lent, we work to purify ourselves–get rid of sin and/or sinful tendencies.
The Lenten spiritual disciplines (giving stuff up) are like the conditioning drills in training camp. Instead of strengthening the body for resisting tackles, they strengthen the will for resisting our sinful tendencies.
The root of all sin is disordered self-love. It’s disordered because we love ourselves and what we want more than we love God and what he wants for us. Ordered self-love makes God, and his ways, the priority.
Ironically, ordered self-love sometimes means you don’t get what your “self” loves. That’s because we often make bad choices.
The temptation not to follow God can be strong and, let’s face it, we’re weak. Our disordered selves love to give in to sin. It feels really good at the time, but it’s really bad for you.
It can’t be allowed to live!
Disordered self-love can’t merely be tolerated. It can’t be allowed to live! It must be killed! Mortified!
Mortifications are penances that involve self-denial. In Latin, mortis means death. Mortification “puts to death” sinful tendencies and desires. In the spiritual life you’re like James Bond–licensed to kill!
So, why not give up chocolate for Lent? Giving up chocolate is not bad. It’s denying yourself something that your “self” loves. That indirectly strengthens the will to fight your sinful tendencies.
But there’s a more direct way. Figure out your biggest fault and attack that directly.
- Do you get angry a lot? Give up arguing back. Stay silent when someone attacks you.
- Are you envious and resentful of coworkers? Compliment them when they do a good job on something.
- Do you buy too many clothes? Give up clothes shopping.
- Have a problem with internet porn? Try fasting completely from those sites.
Lenten spirituality takeaway
Go ahead and give up chocolate if you want to, but that’s not really training camp. That’s not going all “007” on your sin!
Lent is the time to attack and kill. It’s about shock and awe!
Then, hopefully, you’ll build up enough strength through concentrated effort to even get rid of those chronic faults. Or, at the least really lessen their hold on you.
I mean, if you’re giving stuff up, you might as well make it count.
Besides, chocolate is the world’s most perfect food. Why would you give that up?