Lent is quickly approaching and, if you are like me, it’s an annual struggle. It is the big question. What are you giving up for Lent? The traditional and expected ideas of giving up a certain food, drink, or social media seem to pop up frequently. However, I came across a piece of paper a priest once gave me. It had some unconventional, but wise, ideas for sacrifices during Lent.
Here are the top 2 from that list I would recommend that you consider giving up for Lent if you have not already committed to a Lenten sacrifice:
1.) Give up gossiping: This is one we all, at some point, have likely needed to add to our list of “things I need to confess” when we go to Reconciliation. Gossip is a sin. We do not think about it often because it seems so natural and common. The problem with sin is that it is common. It is natural. We have a biological tendency toward sin because we are human. It is the struggle against our flesh which we must fight until we get to eternity. The ninth commandment says “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) Gossip is the epitome of “bearing false witness” against our neighbor. Gossip ruins lives, severs relationships, and can leave a lasting wound in a person. It is a direct violation of God’s law and a mortal sin.
If we are to give up something, then we should seek to replace it with something else. We give up gossip in exchange for control of our tongue. We substitute gossip in our life with seeking to find a way to uplift others rather than tearing them down.
“It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna…..But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers.” (James 3:4-6, 8-10)
2.) Give up complaining- God has blessed us all immensely more than we deserve. We are sinners who have rejected God and spurned his laws. Yet, we complain when things do not go our way. We are like little children throwing a tantrum when mom tells us we can not have a cookie. The only difference is we are adults, and our tantrums can get louder. “Do not grumble as some of them did and suffered death by the destroyer.” (I Corinthians 10:10)
The Israelites complained and grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the book of Numbers and in Exodus. That did not bode very well for them. They chose to try to do things their own way rather than God’s and it ended in a golden calf and idol worship. Complaining places our own plans, needs, wants, and desires above what God may want for us. One thing is for certain, he does not want us complaining. Instead, let us give thanks and show gratitude for what the Lord has done for us. The moment it comes to mind to complain is the moment we should automatically replace it with something for which we are grateful. If you do that then you will see a difference in the depth of your relationship with the Lord.
If we are honest with ourselves then we know Lent is more than just a tradition and routine. It is more than just going through the motions of the faith. The sacrifices we choose to make during Lent are supposed to be penitential. They are intended for us to offer them as sacrifices to the Lord in penance for our sins and to seek those sacrifices to draw us closer into fellowship with the Lord. If you are giving up the same few things each year and it has become a routine rather than a sacrifice, then you are doing it wrong. You are missing the abundance graces Christ wants to bestow on your during this beautiful season.