What did you give up for Lent?

I have been asked at least a hundred times, “So Father what did you give up for Lent?” It is a kind of personal question so I am always hesitant to answer. But I have realized over the past few weeks, that many of those asking me that question are children, youth and young adults. I began to think to myself that the question carries with it the weight of authenticity. It really is an important and powerful question for many of them. They have heard us preaching the need to make Lent a time of sacrifice. One of the traditional Lenten disciplines is fasting – a call to detach ourselves from worldly and materials things so our hearts can focus more deeply on the deeper spiritual realities that carry far more valued for our eternal salvation. Our children and young people – and our young adults – are not shy about sharing with you what they are giving up for Lent. I have found its not about bragging but a real desire to be strengthened and supported in their battle. You can hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes. This is not easy. One of our servers in grade school has given up popcorn – something that he and his family eat every night so this is no easy thing to give up. Another server who is in high school has given up his video games – something that usually occupies a good bit of his time every day. One of our second graders preparing for his first sacraments has given up peanut butter cups which apparently are his meal of choice every day while another confirmation student is forgoing all television for six weeks. Now these are real sacrifices. The list goes on and on. It is edifying and inspiring what these young people are doing out of love for Jesus Christ and their faith. Their questions seem to strengthen their resolve to hold fast to their Lenten sacrifice. After all we are all in this together, right? It can’t be just words for us adults. What are we giving up for Lent? How much of a sacrifice are we really making out of our love for Jesus Christ and our faith? And so I have begun to answer their questions this year. I have given up wine, bread and all sweets. It has been tough going for me and the temptations are there every day. But then I think of the popcorn and the video games, the televisions and peanut butter cups – after all we are all in this together – and that makes it a little easier to hang in there.