Lenten Discipline: It’s more than giving up chocolate
Last year my Lenten discipline was to listen at Mass. I mean really listen—with my whole person. I made myself sit or stand very still, feet flat on the floor, hands at rest, back straight, eyes fixed on the reader. I was much more attentive, and my husband mentioned that my concentration helped him listen better too. This Lent, I want to continue to listen like that and also let each Sunday Gospel suggest a discipline for the week. Perhaps you’d like to join me.
First Sunday of Lent: Mark 1:12–15 Jesus prays in the desert for forty days and allows himself to be tempted. Jesus doesn’t ask us to carry any cross he doesn’t also carry. That’s our first week’s discipline—to fast from asking others to do what we do not do ourselves. Do we ask perfection from our religious or political leaders even though we’re imperfect? Do we demand courtesy from our children even though we’re not polite to them? Do we expect forgiveness even though we don’t forgive others?
Second Sunday of Lent: Mark 9:2–10 Peter finds the Transfiguration so awesome he wants to hold on to the experience forever. I, too, want to hold on to the good, even if it means forsaking the greater good that comes from letting go, but sometimes we must lose to gain. We give up the security of the womb to be born into the world, the comfort of the breast to eat bread and strawberries, the independence of single life for companionship, our contented twosomeness to raise a child. Ultimately we die to this life to live again. This week, let’s fast from clutching, trusting that waiting for us is a joy we cannot imagine.
Third Sunday of Lent: John 2:13–25 Jesus drives out those who make the temple into a marketplace. The temple is a holy place dedicated to worship of the one true God, not for the false god of mammon. Many gods vie for first place in our lives: obvious idols like addiction, unconscionable pleasure-seeking, shopping until we drop. Our false gods might even be good things: home, family, health, work, political involvement, even parish community. This week, let’s examine our attachments and pray for the courage to fast from false gods.
Fourth Sunday of Lent: John 3:14–21 The people prefer darkness to the light of God’s love. This is God’s lament. It’s the lament of anyone who loves someone bent on self-destruction. Amidst so much good, so much beauty, and so much potential, some wallow in darkness. We don’t have to. This passage says God so loved the world. This week, let’s fast from negativity and cynicism and abandon ourselves to living as though we believe God’s love for the world is real and enough.
Fifth Sunday of Lent: John 12:20–33 A grain of wheat that falls from the plant and dies produces much fruit. We lose what we clutch and gain what we let go of. Don’t we see evidence of this in our everyday lives? That when we hold our children too close, we lose them? That when we worry too much about our future, we lose our present? This week, let’s notice what we’re afraid to lose, and then let it go, believing the truth of letting go and gaining all.
It will be much easier to be faithful to a new discipline if we do it together. Let me know how your Lent is going, and let’s remember one another in prayer.