For most people, the emphasis of Lent is about giving up. They are encouraged to give up something they like. People are told that they must fast and abstain. The Church urges them to give up a pattern of sin in their lives by making a good confession and a firm purpose of amendment.
Although all of these are a part of what Lent means, I think the real meaning of Lent is not about giving up, but about giving in. Giving into our God who says: “Come back to me with all your heart.” There are many ways to describe this giving in. For example: “To let go and let God.” Then there is the reflection of St. Augustine who wrote: “We were made for God and our hearts are restless until we rest in Him.” St. Paul wrote: “May you come to know the height and depth, the breadth and the length until knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all understanding, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.” Finally, Jesus said: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”
I would suggest that giving in is much more difficult than giving up. It involves a great risk because we are asked to surrender ourselves to God. To give up control of my life is never easy. After all self-preservation is the strongest human instinct.
There are three things God does during Lent. He bugs us. He tugs us. He hugs us. God bugs us during Lent so that we don’t settle for cheap substitutes, or false gods. He bugs us through our conscience, through our prayer, through scripture and definitely through a good confession. He bugs us not to listen to the lies that the devil throws at us. He wants us to think that he is more powerful than God. He lies when he says that we are too weak to overcome temptations. When Jesus was tempted He told the devil to go away, and we must do the same.
God tugs us when we become complacent. He has us on a short lease. And as long as we don’t break the connection between us and God, He is able to pull us back to His heart, pull us back to sanity; pull us back to the realization that without God in our lives, we would make a mess out of our lives.
Finally, God hugs us. Sometimes the hug is given through a loved one or friend, especially in moments of discouragement or pain. Other times God gently hugs us when we are alone in prayer or in front of the Blessed Sacrament when there is adoration.
L.E.N.T. When I preach during Lent, I tell the congregation that Lent means: Let’s Eliminate Negative Thinking. It is not meant to be a time when we beat ourselves up. It is meant to be a time of rebirth, a time to come to our senses and realize that our lives would have no meaning, if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead. So prepare yourselves for the great feast of Easter, when death, darkness and evil have no hold on us because our Savior has conquered them.
Have a great Lent and remember: TO LOVE ANOTHER PERSON IS TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD.