There is more to Lent than just ‘giving up’

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For many people, Lent arrives not with a sense of eager anticipation but with dread. Some people have told me that it calls up memories of previous Lents, when they feel that they have failed in their efforts to do some great Lenten sacrifice or penance. 

If that’s the case, maybe you can see it in a new way. Lent is the period of spiritual preparation that leads to Easter. During Lent we traditionally follow the three pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Many people do other penances—giving things up—which is a worthwhile pursuit if it helps you to be more loving and generous. 

Let me suggest a more basic goal. The word most often used in the Gospels for repentance is “metanoia,” which means a change of mind and heart. Some of that has to do with repentance as we understand the word, but it’s more of a reorientation of your life—whether that means being more loving, more generous, more faithful, more trusting, more open. So this Lent maybe you could pray not simply for the willingness to give up chocolate, but to become a more loving person, day by day, in your own way. Try to see it as not simply a “giving up” but an invitation from God to become the person God wants you to be. 

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