Why Give Up Something for Lent

 ◊  Saint Caesarius of Nazianzus, pray for us

A recent status update of mine on FaceBook:

Gave up Dr. Pepper for Lent. Minimum amount of Mt Dew is staving off the caffeine withdrawal headaches, but it’s not the same as good ole DP. Giving up Facebook would have been easier. 😉 Offer it up.

If you can’t read between the lines, I’m addicted to DP. At least three a day, morning, midday, evening. Caffeine is part of the problem. Mountain Dew, or any soft drinks for that matter with caffeine or not, don’t satisfy the craving for DP.

A non-Catholic friend indirectly asked about the practice of giving something up for Lent. My short reply:

Craziness?? Giving something up, or sacrificing, during Lent is about re-ordering our disordered desires. It is a form of fasting, and fasting is one of the antidotes to our threefold concupiscence, “the lust of the flesh [pleasure] and the lust of the eyes [possessions] and the pride of life [power]” (1 John 2:13-17, cf Genesis 3:6). It’s only crazy if you are not seeking a change of heart, metanoia.

If there is was more space, I would add:

  • Jesus’ three temptations in the desert correspond to the threefold concupiscence. Jesus, as man, as the new Adam, succeeded where the old Adam, the first man, had failed.
  • You only sacrifice things that are good, that have value to you.
  • Detachment, or emptying yourself, creates a space within you. This allows something else to move in. Are you going to chose other things, or God?
  • In the Old Testament, you were suppose to unite yourself with your sacrifice to God. It is a symbol or metaphor for you. God doesn’t need a burnt offering or my Dr. Pepper. God wants me, my heart. He wants my will joined with His. He wants me to freely choose to do good, to want the good for others, like He does. My desires need to be in order. And at the risk of mixing metaphors, God wants me to learn to dance with Him. And I can’t do that if I have disordered worldly attachments. I can’t dance with a Dr. Pepper in my hand.

Either you are moving closer to God or moving away from God. Moses called this the choice of life or death (Deut. 30:15-20). If taken seriously, the practice of Lent illuminates this choice. The choice is yours.