Whether you were able to make it to Ash Wednesday services or not, you probably have noticed that the season of Lent is in full swing. Church basements smell of fish frys, our church is dressed in purple, our bi-annual Holy Hour, O Come Let Us Adore is just around the corner (a perfect way to help you grow in your Lenten journey!), and the question, “So what are you giving up for Lent?” becomes everyone’s favorite to ask.

Growing up in a big family, me and my siblings would often ask this question and try to figure out who had the most “hard core” Lenten commitment. It was the equivalent of flexing our own spiritual muscles. However, I quickly learned that picking something just because of the fact that is was difficult was not the best way to journey in Lent, as I’d make it halfway through the 40 days and then give up because all my will power had run out. My little perfectionist self felt that I had “failed” Lent.

The Lenten season, with the practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, can be such a beautiful, holy time as we shed the things that distract and hold us back from the Lord. But it also can feel like a bunch of checklists that we are given or in the busy, day to day of life, it can be easy to miss the point of Who we are really preparing for.

These practices of the Church are not meant to be things that if we “do right” we will have a better Lent or Easter, or automatically have a closer relationship with the Lord. So if you have struggled with your Lenten fasts or observances, don’t be discouraged!

At the heart of the Gospel story is a message of deep, unwavering Love that God Himself desires to pour out to us. We see this first in His creation of the world and man, then in His covenants with His people, and ultimately in the person of Jesus, God’s own Word made Flesh.

My favorite definition of love is “willing the good of the other”. As I learn and grow in my own relationships, I see how true that really is. Love requires self sacrifice, a giving of oneself, because without that, is it truly love that we are experiencing or just mere convenience? Jesus modeled this perfectly as he walked on earth but even more so when He gave up His life on the cross. Now we see Him give Himself entirely in the Eucharist. That kind of love, pure and sacrificial, deserves a response.

During Lent, more than anything, our goal in our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving should not be to do it perfectly, but to do it with the intention of giving ourselves to the Lord.

This is a reminder that I need to give myself often because I still struggle with perfectionism or wanting to do things well. But anytime that we might fail in our commitments to prayer or fasting from a certain thing, I remember that relationships are not built upon check lists or doing things perfectly. And the Lord in His tender mercy never fails to take my hand and invite me to walk with Him again any time I do fail to love Him sacrificially.

This Lenten season, invite Jesus into your Lenten commitments and your journey, road bumps and all; see how He transforms those things from becoming things to do to ways to love. This kind of preparation and dying to self makes the journey to Easter that much sweeter.  Even in our brokenness and lack of perfection, our desire to love creates more room to receive Love Himself and celebrate the victory of the Cross.  

To journeying through Lent together,

Clare Kolenda

Coordinator of Youth Faith Formation