I heard a little when I was growing up about Lent, those forty days preceding Easter, from friends who always “gave up” something. Or at least, they would talk about giving something up. I never saw the point, thought they were being silly.
Now I see the point.
Lent is a penitential season preceding not only Easter but Holy Week, the Passion drama. We take on certain mortifications, voluntarily, to try to do a couple of things. First, we want to bring our bodies, wills and egos into a greater conformity with the Gospel. Careless self-indulgence can make us spiritually insensitive; the Lenten absinence is a good antidote. We also want to identify ourselves with the sufferings of Christ, Who suffered all so that we could be reconciled to the Father.
It isn’t as bad as it sounds. Some people give up red meat — I am going to do that this year. Others give up habits, like smoking, that are detrimental but have a strong hold on them, a strong attachment. We are also encouraged to add to our lives — through extra devotional reading, or works of mercy that we would normally avoid.
The point is to move further away from our comfort zone so that we can become more pliable in the Master’s hands. I want to encourage my non-Catholic friends to adopt some act of self-sacrifice during this time, and offer it up to God, as an experiment. See how He transforms you through the offering.