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Lent Versus Giving Up

So I grew up in a family where Lent was for me an obligated punishment as opposed to a pleasing observance. My Mom, a few days before Ash Wednesday, would start to sing into our ears the need for Lenten observances and “giving ups” – prominent among which was FASTING from FOOD!!! She made each child spy on one another so you could hardly break the fast until the appointed time. As a smart little boy, I remember making a deal with my little brother by breaking the fast before 12:00 noon and we made strong promise not tell on each other…so technically we were still fasting because our lips would be wiped super clean, and our faces dropped in hunger (faked though).

At that time I had no understanding of the true essence of giving up something for Lent. As I grew older, I gradually understood that to give up something is to save for the rainy days. Just like putting away few pennies in a piggy bank for a few weeks and boom…it’s already a dollar!

Following the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi: “it is in giving that we receive,” I’ve come to realize that each time I give up something, I feel a lift in my heart…like a burden is taken off my shoulder. Please let us not misconstrue this to mean that when we offer alms to the needy we are passing on our burdens to them. We are required to be of good service to the needy and the poor, after all these were the people with whom Jesus was friends. “Indeed, I tell you, for as long as you do this to any of the least of my sisters and brothers, you do it unto me.” (cf Matt 25:40).  But how hard it is for us to part with our possessions sometimes!!! After all we worked for them, they are ours!!! We live in an individualistic society where communal living is not popular anymore. In short, we believe in and rely on our strength to get whatever we want. We are busy basking in the Euphoria of false needs and beliefs: if only I can get that job, I will be secure and have money to afford modern luxury…Oh yea, I will put in my best at the office so I can impress my boss and be in her/his good book, and yes other members of staff will applaud me and hold me in high esteem…and what about control and power…yes, yes I will do whatever it takes to be the one in charge! Others must listen to me!!! This is our story many a times, and once we are made to be ruled by these false beliefs, getting out of the trap becomes very hard.

Pondering on the temptations of Jesus by the devil in the desert, we see how Jesus reaffirmed that although He was in the nature of God, [He] did not see equality with God as anything to grasp. In response to the devil at the first temptation, Jesus opined that food alone doesn’t nourish us, but we are fulfilled by the words of God. At the second temptation, He said to the devil: never put God to the test, and at the third temptation he retorted: Only God must be worshipped!!!

In all these, we are reminded that human frailty is inevitable but God carries us even in our lowliness.

As we sojourn in this season of Lent, let us not rely only on our human strength and abilities, but let us have absolute trust in God and surrender to Him. He will carry us through and provide us with all the strength we need. Please let us remember the poor and the invisible minorities in our community at this Holy season and stretch out a hand of help to them. After all, it is in giving that we receive.

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