I've have done it every year for the past few years. I make a Facebook post about what I am giving up for Lent. But rather than giving up something serious: like chocolate, or some vice (like television or Facebook), I put up something silly. For several years I gave up brussel sprouts or liver for Lent. This year I have given up Spam and other canned meats. Of course when Easter comes I won't be rushing to eat liver, brussel sprouts, or canned meat. I think I make these posts because I think people need a laugh during Lent and especially this year with civil unrest and war on the horizon. Maybe for a second reading my post, people might laugh. And for those who thought I was serious, please don't make me canned luncheon meat sandwiches for Easter. I still won't eat them.
I also post these silly posts each year, because I think some people make a big show of giving up something they love for these six weeks of Lent. Look at me, I am giving up dairy. Look at me I am stopping drinking. Look at me I am not smoking. They talk about how their lives have changed because of these six weeks of fasting. Yet even if they manage to successfully complete their six week Lenten fast, they immediately take up their bad habits again once Easter comes. So really what good is a six week change of habits when you have no idea of making real lasting change.
For a few years, instead of giving up something for Lent, I decided to take something on during the season. One year, I ensured that I gave an item to the foodbank each day for the six weeks. Another time, I wrote a blog post each day during Lent. Another time, I compiled a list of three blessings each day and tried not to repeat the blessing on any of the other days of Lent. All of these things seemed a way to mark lent, but they did ring a bit hollow. And again after Easter, I let these things drop. My blog posts went back to one or two times weekly. I think of my blessings but certainly not on a daily regimented basis. I gave the foodbank but not one item a day. So like the man who is so proud he gave up smoking for Lent, my promises vanished or lessened once the Easter service was done.
So I struggled with the idea of how to practise a solemn lent. I didn't want to give. up things just on a temporary basis. Are there things which I can make a permanent change that I vow to undertake now? Pope Francis has a list of how to Fast for Lent. Sure some of these things I will slip up on but I want to be consciously aware of doing better on the following things:
Fast from hurting words, say kind words
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude
Fast from anger and be filled with patience
Fast from worries and trust in God
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity
Fast from pressures and be prayerful
Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others
Fast from grudges and be reconciled
Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.