After years of failing at this season of conversion and sacrifice, I finally cracked the code …
When it comes to Lent, I’m pretty sure I’ve done it all: no sugar, more daily Masses, no alcohol, no bread, no cream in my coffee, daily Rosary, cold showers, and hair shirt. OK, so maybe not hair shirt but, at one time I thought about it.
Yes, I admit, I’m a classic over-committer to the idea of Lenten penance. Which is probably why, for years, my Holy Week would always arrive with the same bitter realization: I was a Lenten failure. Over the 40 days, one by one, I would rationalize my Lenten promises away until I was inevitably left with none. And on Easter morning, I made a solemn vow that next year, I’d commit to Lent, be tried and true, and really celebrate Easter morning.
After years of breaking up with Lent mid-season, I finally cracked the code. Lent is about love. The love that Jesus Christ has for me and for you.
To really experience Lent, I had to put love into it.
I realized that Lent wasn’t about what the sacrifice was, but who the sacrifice was for. Saying no to chocolate means something more when you are doing it with the intention of the full healing of your friend’s breast cancer. Likewise, getting up when your alarm rings is exponentially more powerful when your intention for that day is the holiness of your children.
This connection between sacrifice and love, directed outward, always perfected by loving others, is exemplified and preached again and again by the great saints of our Church.
St. Gianna Molla said perfectly, “Love and sacrifice are closely linked, like the sun and the light. We cannot love without suffering and we cannot suffer without love.”
Or St. Maximilian Kolbe, who gave his life in Auschwitz for another prisoner, “Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving. Without sacrifice, there is no love.”
And maybe the most beautiful sentiment of them all is when Jesus, Himself, said to St. Faustina, “A single act of pure love pleases me more than a thousand imperfect prayers.”
Lent, to me, has now become the most moving and prayerful part of my year. It can be yours, too.
Here’s what I do:
I write down 40 names and assign each day of Lent to one person on the list. Then, each day of the season, I offer whatever sacrifices I can for that person. I pray for them and I fast for them.
Sometimes I let the person know it’s their day and sometimes I don’t. It’s my Lent of love that has created my love of Lent. And it can for you too.
Be assured of my prayers for you this lent, dear reader, I’ll be remembering you and your intentions on Day 32.