Ash Wednesday 

“What are you giving up for Lent?” We often hear this familiar question this time of year and certainly throughout this holy season.  As we gather with family and friends in our homes or around shared spaces or as we come together to participate in church activities or penance services or even perhaps in discussions that might take place on-line or on-phone or in certain workplaces or even food places as we shop and dine, the question will be asked. Have you given it some thought or even thought about it a little? It is a great question to ponder and perhaps even a lifesaving question to consider. What do you plan to give up this Lenten Season or have you already given up and given in? Before spending some time in making a decision, it might be helpful to understand the importance and urgency as to why this season calls us, invites us and encourages us: to fast more, that is to give up more, to put more things to the side or refrain more from certain things and activities; to pray more, that is to spend more quality time listening to God, sharing more of yourself with him, receiving more grace from him; and to give more alms, that is to give more generously from your means, to share more of your resources, and to donate more of your time and abilities to those who could use some extra help or perhaps just providing a helping hand. This beautiful and most holy season calls us to open our hearts more, whether they are broken, dirty, divided, confused, hurt, alone, grieving, sincere, overwhelmed, overjoyed, sick or heathy in hopes that our true identity as beloved children of God, who we were created to be, may be more fully be revealed and realized in the Christ who was sent: to love us, die for us, cleanse us, cloth us, feed us and lead us back to our real home – that is back to the Father’s heart. Jesus came into this cold and darkened world to gather, raise up and bring us back to the Father.  He came to pick us up from humanity’s fallen state and to draw us further away from sin, Satan and temptation and draw us closer to the Father through fasting, prayer and almsgiving. When considering what you plan to give up this Lent, it would be helpful to ask yourself, “Is this a true sacrifice and will this sacrifice draw me closer to the Father or further away from him?”