What I’m not giving up for Lent

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What I’m not giving up for Lent

by Sean van Staden SJ
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When I was growing up, Lent was always the season of “giving up.” For me, it was chocolate. Last year, social media. So this year, I’m not giving up anything.

I’ve looked at Lent and the Lenten texts and decided to revisit my approach to Lent. This season is all about returning to God with all my heart. I need to look at the things holding me back from my relationship with God and what I must let go of to be more accessible to God, others and creation.

This year I’ve decided to give up on perfectionism. Yes, we are called to do and be the best we can be, but God knows we aren’t perfect. We are not God, and we aren’t expected to be. The holiness we are called to is a journey with and to God, even in the messy but beautiful reality of our lives.

Perfectionism blocks God’s gift of grace. It assumes that our problems, and those of the world, are ours to solve. It believes that all our gifts and worth result from our efforts and ignores God’s forgiveness and mercy.

I will replace perfectionism with fidelity and gentleness. I resolve to be faithful to my morning prayers and evening examen and be more attentive during Mass. But I will do so gently and calmly, not seeing these as obligations but as I might approach going for coffee with a friend.

I choose not to trivialise my sin. Yes, God journeys with me as I am, but it is still possible for me to say no to his love and grace. This never diminishes my worth but wounds my relationship with God and others. On the other hand, I will not split myself or refuse responsibility for my decisions. God will always forgive me, but that does not mean my actions are meaningless. This Lent, I feel called to hold in balance these two things: I should not beat myself up for my sin, and I should also not disregard it as meaningless.

I will remember my prophetic responsibility as a Christian. While I am called to gentleness and understanding this Lent, I am also called to speak the truths that must be told, especially in the face of injustice. I cannot ignore the racism, sexism, homophobia, corruption, abuse, extortion, and negligence that I encounter in the world around me. I must be faithful to the Gospel call to justice. Yet I must always keep in mind that it is God who saves and is building the kingdom. My task is to pray for the grace of being God’s instrument in this.

Most importantly, I have decided to make Lent all about love this year. God is love, and Lent is all about returning with all my heart to God. I want to live with compassion, spend time with my loved ones, and rejoice at those special moments of togetherness, understanding, and sorrow. I will offer my time to the poor and marginalised. I will let go of what needs to be let go. I will thank God for all his gifts daily and do my best to respond with eagerness, generosity and gentleness.

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