4 Ways to Have a More Meaningful Lent

Posted by Amy on March 04, 2014, 9:59 am

Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, which means Lent begins!

Before you resolve to give up chocolate for the tenth time, I invite you to take a step back and reflect on the purpose for the season, and reflect on how you can make it more meaningful for you. We’ll get to that, but first, the basics:

What Is Lent?

Lent is the 40-day period (not including Sundays) before Easter Sunday during which we focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. What is almsgiving? It’s basically giving to the needy, with a special intent to do it for Christ.

Dates for the Lenten season:

  • Ash Wednesday - March 5, 2014
  • Palm Sunday - April 13, 2014
  • Good Friday - April 18, 2014
  • Easter Sunday - April 20, 2014

Why Do We Participate in Lent?

We are preparing ourselves for the joyous celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. To do that, we need to reflect on our own sinfulness, repent from our old ways, and do things that will bring us closer to God.

Is There Any Scriptural Basis for Lent?

In the New Testament, Jesus fasts and prays in the desert for 40 days in preparation for his public ministry and subsequent Passion (Matthew 4:1-11). During Lent, which is 40 days, we imitate Christ.

Why Do We Give Things Up for Lent?

By sacrificing, we recall the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us on the cross, and we realize how small our sufferings are in comparison. More important than merely “giving something up” for Lent is doing something with the intention of growing closer to God. This can even mean adding something, like praying the rosary every day, volunteering at a soup kitchen once a week, reading the scripture readings before each mass, or donating to a charity.

How Can I Make This Lenten Season More Meaningful?

1.   Remember the reason for the season.
It’s easy to start thinking of Lent as a season of rules governing when you can (or can’t) eat, when you should abstain from meat, and so forth. But don’t fall into this trap! What good would that be? Remember the why behind everything you’re doing. Remember we are imitating Christ, purifying our hearts, and moving closer to God.  Just as in any relationship, you are telling God that you love Him so much, you are willing to give up these things in order to spend more time with Him. When you see the beauty in sacrifice in the name of love, and when you remember Who you are doing this for, the Lenten season becomes much more meaningful.

2.   Be creative!
I love when people think outside of the box when they’re planning their Lenten goals. I had one friend in college who gave up her bed! She slept on the floor during Lent as a form of penance, and to keep in mind those around the world who go without beds every night.

Growth happens when we move outside of our comfort zone--so if you’re giving up the same thing every Lent, ask yourself how much you’re really growing spiritually.

3.   Don’t go it alone.
It’s much easier to get somewhere when you are walking the path with someone who’s trying to get to the same place. Ask a friend to be your accountability partner this Lent. You can check in on each other, pray together, and hold each other accountable for your Lenten goals.

4.   Set concrete and achievable goals.
Instead of saying, “This Lent, I’m going to pray more,” take it a step further and say something like, “This Lent, I’m going to pray the rosary every day.” Be careful not to get so ambitious that you make a goal that will set you up for failure (or, at best, exhaustion). Yes, praying for two hours every day is a noble goal--but is that really the best way for you to grow in your spiritual life, or do you think you’ll burn out by day three?

All right--now you have some basic guidelines! (Believe me, I’ve just barely scratched the surface.) So what are you doing for Lent? 

Photo credit: jezobeljones

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