What are you giving up for Lent?

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

Our Text Reading Program (TRP) class last evening fell on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It was interesting that one of the sections we covered was, “The Message of the Crucifixion.” Jesus’ reinterpretation of his crucifixion is so radically different from the traditional Christian viewpoint, and, without mentioning Lent, it definitely casts the whole idea in a different light.

According to the Catholic tradition, Lent involves forty days of soul-searching and repentance for one’s sins, and it imitates Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, during which he endured and overcame Satan’s temptations. It’s a time of prayer and fasting, penitence and self-denial. The purpose of Lent is to prepare oneself for Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and victory by taking on mini-sacrifices by denying oneself of worldly pleasures and temptations.

During the class, the topic of Lent sparked comments about what it meant for those growing up Catholic. One person mentioned how resentful she used to feel about having to give up chocolate, and how guilty she’d feel if she gave into temptation and ate some!

One of the students commented that, now that she’s a Course student, she just can’t see Lent the way she did before. She teaches in a Catholic elementary school, and yesterday several of her colleagues asked her, “What are you giving up for Lent?” She wanted to say “Guilt!” but thought that wouldn’t go over well! She wondered how she could possibly answer that question honestly without people thinking she was either crazy or just plain weird.

As we talked, we came up with a response that we thought would work: “My unloving thoughts!” If people wondered what she was talking about, she could say something like, “Jesus’ message was one of love, so I decided to give up unloving thoughts and be more loving.” Of course, this is not a sacrifice in the traditional sense, because she wouldn’t be giving up something she desired. On the contrary she’d be giving up something she didn’t want. She’d be basically making the only “sacrifice” God asks of us: fear (Lesson 323).

Here is the only “sacrifice” You ask of Your beloved Son; You ask him to give up all suffering, all sense of loss and sadness, all anxiety and doubt, and freely let Your Love come streaming in to his awareness, healing him of pain, and giving him Your Own eternal joy. Such is the “sacrifice” You ask of me, and one I gladly make; the only “cost” of restoration of Your memory to me, for the salvation of the world. (Lesson 323. I gladly make the “sacrifice” of fear.)

We got quite excited about this solution, and also about the idea of giving up our unloving thoughts. Our Text readings recently have included a lot about unloving thoughts and actions. T-5.VII (“The Decision for God”) tells us that, “Whenever you are not wholly joyous, it is because you have reacted with a lack of love to one of God’s creations” (5:1), and then it gives us that wonderful process for undoing unlovingness. These readings flow logically into the whole message of the crucifixion: “Teach only love, for that is what you are” (T-6.I.13).

We decided to join together in giving up unloving thoughts for Lent as an alternative to the traditional “giving up.” Perhaps you’d like to join us too.