The reflection below is reprinted, with permission from its author, from the blog Friar Musings. In this essay, George Corrigan, OFM, of Tampa, Fla., recommends stopping to examine what we are giving up for Lent and the real reason for the season.
Growing up, everything I remember about Lent circled around the acts of self-denial. What food, entertainment, or habit one would give up and how hard it was to deny oneself of that thing. It was not always made clear that the denial was meant to help one think about God and Christ’s sacrifice.
Of course, it’s understandable that the deeper meaning of Lent can be missed. We Catholics understand rules. It is far easier to tell kids – and ourselves – to obey rules than to explain to them why we should desire to act rightly. We can end up following the rules simply because — well, because that is what we do, that is how we think of religion.
In Lent, too often we are denying ourselves for the sake of denial. We give up chocolate or Facebook thinking that act of denial is the purpose of Lent. And we end up missing the point.
Lent isn’t about denial. It is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection by endeavoring to become more Christ-like ourselves. Transformation is about letting ourselves be filled with God’s presence so that we can be shaped by God’s grace. But we have to make room for God’s grace. We have to empty ourselves to make room for God, and that may mean leaving aside your favorite TV shows, chocolate, or whatever else takes up time, space, and energy in your life. And so, we give up things, habits as a way of beginning the transformation.
In our faith tradition, this process has a word — Kenosis, the “self-emptying” of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will. Denying ourselves in order to allow God to fill us. The Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and alms giving help prepare us to be transformed. We deny ourselves so that we can be reborn as new creations, to live more fully as the Kingdom citizens God desires us to be, to go and do the good that God would have us do.
A good place to start is being intentional in one’s life of prayer and making a space in your life to be in relationship with God. Now that Ash Wednesday has passed, what is your Lenten plan to make room in your life to be filled with God’s grace?
— Fr. George is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa, Fla. A former naval officer, George spent three years of service as a lay missionary in Kenya with the Franciscan Mission Service before joining the Order. He was ordained a priest in 2007.
Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic – a holiday, holy day, or other seasonal theme – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- “Tampa Parish Celebrates Mass of Belonging” – Oct. 15, 2015, HNP Today
- “Are You Listening During Lent?” – March 4, 2015, HNP Today
- “George Corrigan Installed as Pastor of Tampa Parish” – Oct. 12, 2011, HNP Today