What are you giving up for Lent? That is the question that you hear all over on this Ash Wednesday. All you need to do is browse the internet a little bit and you’ll see and hear people talking about what they are giving up this Lenten season. You hear chocolate, alcohol, television, and so many other things. I like to call this the “trendy Lent”. It’s almost “cool” to give these things up in our lives, with the expectation that come Easter I can pick it back up again and go back to “life as normal”. Until then, I can suffer a little without it…a trendy Lent.
But Lent calls us to something much deeper in our lives. I think it would be the message that Paul would deliver to the different communities that he traveled to, including Corinth whom he writes to today. There is some value in giving up all those things; they may help us break the surface on things, but eventually Lent has to be about more. How about the expectations we have, grudges and anger we hold onto, the lies we tell ourselves to protect us, the relationships we refuse to seek reconciliation with. If Paul were to council us on Lenten practices, that’s what I believe he would tell us we should work on. Ok, start with all those other things, but as the season goes on, what begins to be uncovered. He pretty much tells us what it is we’re really looking for, “God appealing through us.” Maybe our Lenten practice can be towards working in that direction, where divine the divine, Christ, in me speaks to the divine in you. Everything else passes away, turns to dust. Paul reminds us that salvation is about today, not 40 days from now or at the end of our lives, but when we sift through the stuff we hold onto and need to let go of, we begin to find what it is we are really looking for in our lives and salvation arrives. As Christians, the trendy Lent should not suffice, but rather seek healing and reconciliation and greater depth in our spiritual life, something that goes well beyond Easter Sunday but rather becomes a way of life.
Now everything we do on this day really points out the irony of our actions, as Jesus says in today’s gospel. Let’s face it, things change today. We come in with a different attitude. Things are stripped down. It almost has more of a glum feeling. It’s as if we knew this was coming and everything around us points to not only the hypocrisy of our own lives but also sacramentalizes them at the same time. We know we are more than our sin, yet this journey during this Lenten season calls us to conversion of heart so not only do we know it, but we really know it and believe it in our hearts because we see the loving face of God even through our sinful ways.
As we begin this journey together, we are called to more than just the trendy Lent of giving up our favorite foods and such; sure we could start there, but we pray for the desire to go deeper, below the surface. During this journey we will be provided the opportunity to go to the places in our hearts, once we break through, to see what really nags at us and to seek out salvation today. We pray for openness during this season to the impossible of our lives becoming possible through the grace of God calling us to new life. What am I giving up for Lent? Well, quite simply, whatever is keeping me from experiencing the salvation of God today, whatever is keeping the divine in me from speaking to the divine in all creation. We pray this Lent moves us to a deeper sense of life in God.