Lent: Becoming A Better Man in 40 Days
“Lenten practices of giving up pleasures are good reminders that the purpose of life is not pleasure.”
-Venerable Fulton J Sheen
Tomorrow, our Church gets a makeover and we’re going to see a lot more purple. There are many different aspects and many spiritual benefits to the Lenten season but I want to focus on one today.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of fasting for Catholics ages 18-59. That means that tomorrow, we are required to eat one regular meal and two smaller, lesser meals. On top of that, Ash Wednesday is also a day of abstinence. That means that we are supposed abstain, or withhold, from eating meat. And every Friday through Good Friday is also a day of fasting and abstinence.
It also a regular practice to take on an additional sacrifice and abstain from something else (candy, dessert, the office etc).
Each of the sacrifices I listed above: Fasting and Abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Fridays, plus the additional self-imposed sacrifice, will help you become a better man…if done well.
To The Desert
Your goal for this Lent should be to return to the desert along side Jesus, to be tempted with Jesus, and to be victorious through Jesus.
Christ’s journey to the desert did not end after the temptations of Satan, they ended by His death on the cross.
Christ began his public ministry by displaying his obedience, love, and trust in God the Father in the midst of temptation. And ended His ministry by displaying His obedience, love, and trust in God the Father in the midst of suffering.
In a similar way we need a desert to prepare us for our cross.
That is why your Lenten sacrifice is supposed to hurt a little. Pick something that gives you some sort of pleasure and give it up on purpose. By doing that you are guaranteeing that you will be tempted at least once a day to break your sacrifice and you’ll have to learn to say “no.”
If you give up chocolate, but typically only eat chocolate once in a while, you’re not really growing from your Lenten sacrifice outside of checking a box.
Give up sugar or cream in your coffee. Give up Netflix. Give up Social Media. Give up something that you will want and have to say “no” to daily.
You need to feel like you’re in the desert with Christ.
At some point, temptation will hit and the same voice that talks to you during your regular sinful struggles will rear it’s ugly head.
“It’s not a big deal.”
“Just this once isn’t bad.”
“I’ve been good up until now.”
“I can start again tomorrow.”
Your Lenten sacrifice cannot be a sin, we’re supposed to give those up everyday, but the temptation to give in during Lent might feel like the temptations to sins that you might be struggling with.
To The Cross
We all have heavy crosses we have to bear. Building up our capacity to deny ourselves during Lent will stengthen our ability to carry those crosses that we struggle with.
It is through the desert that we prepare for the cross.
That doesn’t mean that our crosses will feel lighter, but it does mean that we will be stronger as we carry them. Lent is an opportunity for God’s grace to transform us into whom we were made to be.
If we become men who are constantly in need of pleasure and comfort, we will never be able to sacrifice ourselves for the love of others. We weren’t made for comfort or pleasure. Our lives were meant to be self-donating gifts for God and those around us.
Jesus gave us the example of self-donation and sacrifice by His death on the cross. Jesus also gave us a roadmap of what our lives are destined to be if we choose to follow Him.
You Are Dust
As you recieve your ashes, don’t let this be just another ritual. Listen closely and let the priest’s words sink in: “Remember your are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
One day, we will no longer be here, and we will be asked: “Who did we live for?” Lent is an opportunity for us to no longer live for ourselves. We get to practice living for others by denying ourselves. We, men, will have influenced the world for the better because of our submission.
If we do Lent the right way this year, we will become better men: men who survived the desert, who are ready for the cross, and awaiting the resurrection.
Until next time - Esto Vir!