The gift of God’s self13 Feb 2018
Lent is a reminder that Jesus is the dearest gift that God can give us.
Lent’s most vivid memories are often of the things we have given up. When we were children, we may have given up eating sweets. We put them in a bottle longing for Easter Sunday when we could pig out on the sticky mess. When we grew older, we sometimes gave up alcohol. As we age we muse on the possibility of giving up introducing every single conversation with an account of our various aches and pains. Maybe some Lent we might get around to do it.
But Lent is not only, or even mostly, about giving up things. It invites many other kinds of giving. Like Ramadan for Muslims, Lent is also a time for simple giving. It encourages us to give food to the poor through Project Compassion. It invites us to provide more time for our family than we usually do and to give space to prayer. It also allows us to notice the world around us and to respond to it. We notice homeless people in the streets, the colour and texture of gardens, and the feelings there to see on faces in the street.
Lent also offers opportunities to give things away. We listen to Jesus speaking of the flowers of the field that are so effortlessly well dressed. We are inspired to give to Vinnies shirts and shorts we have never worn and the perfumes, dancing shoes, shampoos, fly nets and shooting sticks that we have accumulated just in case. We discover the simple joys of travelling more lightly.
We may also find opportunity at Lent for giving in. Normally, of course, our business at Lent is about not giving in: we count it a lapse if we give in to the allure of the chocolate or cigarettes we have given up. But we may sometimes become aware of a little voice inviting us to let go of a resentment we have nurtured for many years. Ordinarily, we would resist the voice that urges generosity. This Lent we decide to give in to it.
Lent is not just about giving up, but about all kinds of giving. But at its heart lies, not giving, but being given. Its point is to remind us of all that we have been given by God through Jesus and to encourage us to be thankful for it. Jesus is the dearest gift that God can give us – God’s self. He is given into our hands as a vulnerable baby to be accepted or rejected as we choose. He joins us in the ordinary meetings and business of our lives, listening, speaking and there to be heard or dismissed as we choose. He offers freedom and full life and is rewarded with captivity, torture, rejection and a painful death. By sharing in the death, we must die he gives us life. Lent makes us aware of the seriousness and cost of this gift and invites us to be thankful.
On each day of Lent, there is the need for all these kinds of giving and remembering.Fr Andy Hamilton SJ is editorial consultant at Jesuit Communications