Give Up Nothing for Lent! - Lin Wilder

Gine up nothing for Lent!
Give Up Nothing for Lent!

Give up nothing for Lent!

A good title gets our attention and this one sure does grab. It’s Father Casey Cole’s exhortation as we begin what our Byzantine friends call The Great Fast: Give up nothing for Lent!

Fr. Casey’s point applies to those of us thinking of Lent as a time to give up our morning cup of coffee. And make everyone around us miserable. Deprive ourselves of things to make us uncomfortable.

Maybe giving up social media or desserts.

Or chocolate.


Fr. Casey looks earnestly at us as he entreats:


“Stop giving up things for Lent….Giving up things for Lent is a fairly shallow practice…the practice instills no lasting virtue.” The young Franciscan priest suggests that when we deprive ourselves of something we love, that makes us miserable, we’re making Lent all about suffering. As if we can “earn His love by suffering.”

I remember waiting for Easter so we could finally have a cup of coffee! Although there’s truth to the good in suffering for Him, my forty-day denial of coffee didn’t instill new virtue.

How about incising the closed off places in our minds and exposing them to the Son?

Maybe work at our forgiveness of someone or even of ourselves?

Or beg for the grace to finally risk what we’re most afraid of, even though we suspect it’s a step we desperately need to take?

How about evaluating how we spend our leisure time?

So what are we supposed to do?

The ashes on our foreheads prompt us to think of what will happen when we die.

To our souls.

About our hopes that we and all of us will get to Heaven—say it! We want to be saints!

So we do what the Church tells us to do, what Jesus did:

  • Pray,
  • Fast,
  • And give alms.

In last year’s Ash Wednesday homily, Bishop Barron defined prayer this way: “Lifiting our hearts and minds to God.” It’s the attitude we were created to have, when we were one with the Triune God. It’s the attitude the animals live since they lack a free will to walk away. Their natures remain in His Will; the primary reason, I wager, that we’re drawn to them.

Fasting isn’t giving something up. Instead, it’s gaining mastery over our appetites, over our bodies’ need for food. It’s about emptying so that we can be filled with what we each hunger for: Him.

Some practical tips?

  • Not all of us can do without food for extended periods of time, so there are options.
  • Consider the manner and amount that we eat. Fr. Casey talks about his gluttony with favorite foods like pizza.
  • Fast from gossip-defined by Bishop Barron as “speaking negatively about a person to someone who can do nothing about our complaint.” [Wowza.]
  • Bishop Barron suggests attending daily Mass for Lent.
  • Consider praying the Liturgy of the Hours, you may fall in love with these expressions of every human emotion.
  • If not already tithing, suggests Fr. Casey, start…just for these forty days.
  • And one from me: How about considering what we watch and read for fun? I love thriller movies, TV shows and books. But reading about serial killers and terrorists and virtually rooting for the demise of the bad guy isn’t making space for Him…for Love.
  • So, for the third time, I’ve quit reading and watching them.

There must be serious spiritual heft to prayer and fasting

because Jesus tells the disciples that demons whom they could not exorcize can “only be removed through prayer and fasting.” So our extra prayer time and sacrifices can change the world—starting with our cleansed minds and hearts.

St John Cardinal Henry Newman speaks on this point and of learning Him by unlearning ourselves:

…This conflict and victory in the world unseen, is intimated in other passages of Scripture. The most remarkable of these is what our Lord says with reference to the demoniac, whom His Apostles could not cure. He had just descended from the Mount of Transfiguration, where, let it be observed, He seems to have gone up with His favoured Apostles to pass the night in prayer. He came down after that communion with the unseen world, and cast out the unclean spirit, and then He said, “This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting,” [Mark ix. 29.] which is nothing less than a plain declaration that such exercises give the soul {11} power over the unseen world; nor can any sufficient reason be assigned for confining it to the first ages of the Gospel. And I think there is enough evidence, even in what may be known afterwards of the effects of such exercises upon persons now (not to have recourse to history), to show that these exercises are God’s instruments for giving the Christian a high and royal power above and over his fellows...[italics mine]

…And during this sacred season, let us look upon ourselves as on the Mount with Him—within the veil—hid with Him—not out of Him, or apart from Him, in whose presence alone is life, but with and in Him—learning of His Law with Moses, of His attributes with Elijah, of His counsels with Daniel—learning to repent, learning to confess and to amend—learning His love and His fear—unlearning ourselves, and growing up unto Him who is our Head.

Fasting: A Source of Trial

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