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Lent prep | Holy Face

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. The Church directs us tomorrow to fast (max: one normal meal with two half-meals and no snacking) and to abstain from meat (this will also be for every Friday of Lent), and many people like to commit to some other form of sacrifice (“giving something up”) for the entirety of Lent.

I would suggest that, while giving something up can be a beneficial spiritual practice of self-denial, it can bear even more fruit when you consider what will replace the object of your sacrifice. For example, if you give up Starbucks, what will you do with the money you save? Perhaps you could donate it to a worthy charity. If you give up--or at least reduce--your use of social media, what will you do with that extra time? Perhaps you could spend it with the daily Scriptures from Mass or some other spiritual reading.

When we give up something but don’t replace it, we can tend to fill that void with idolatry by pining for it or, perhaps even worse, with pride at our ability to do without it. Neither of these is the point of Lenten sacrifice. Such a practice should pry our hands away from the grip we have on worldly pleasures so that they will be available to extend to others in charity and to fold in prayer.

A good reminder of this is that the day before Ash Wednesday is traditionally devoted to the Holy Face of Jesus. Instead of gazing longingly at the drive-through or at the apps on our phones, that is a much more worthy object of our desire.


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