Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
The readings for the day can be found here.
It’s always interesting to hear what people are doing for Lent. Some give up a favorite item, work on correcting a bad habit, or commit to doing something positive. The readings today allude to what I feel can be a common “Lenten trap”—focusing a transient energy on a goal for Lent without truly reflecting on the implications of participating in Lent in the first place. Lent is much less about what we give up, but rather about what God gave up. We are set free only because God made the ultimate, perfect Lenten promise—He gave up His one and only Son.
In the readings today, there is a strong focus on the fact that God does not require sin-offerings such as the sacrificial lambs that were offered in the Old Testament. Through the body of Jesus Christ, our debts are gone, and we are relieved of the duty of sacrifice. For this reason, Lent really isn’t a time to “score points” by wallowing in our self-imposed endeavors, but rather a time for reflecting and striving to strengthen our faith. It is may be manageable to focus on the brevity of the season, but we can take our time during Lent to change ourselves for the long term. It may be good and well to give up or start something during these 40 days, but the coming of Easter ought not to put an end to our journey. What is the point of Lent if we simply regress to our old ways as soon as it is over? After all, God’s gift to this world wasn’t a temporary promise—it was a covenant, a permanent sign of His love for all the world. Just as in the readings today, when Jesus’ sacrifice permanently abolished our need to sacrifice bulls and goats, our Lenten experiences can be enduring reminders of that sacrifice, and bring us closer to God.
Even though God does not command us to, we give certain things up during Lent as a tool to help us reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus has made for all of us. This semester I am studying in Spain, where the Spanish people generally don’t give up anything. Instead, they focus on the fasting, reflection and self-betterment that Lent entails. At first I was surprised when my host señora told us that the concept of giving something up just doesn’t exist here, but after reflection, it isn’t so incomprehensible. In the readings, sacrifice and oblation are presented as unnecessary; for what God ultimately asks of us is that we grow in Him and do His will. Giving up something for Lent can be a powerful tool in our journey, but only if accomplished in the greater context of God’s sacrifice.
My reflection is a simple one. Without the sacrifice that God made, anything we choose to do over Lent would be meaningless. What we choose to do with Lent is up to us—but we mustn’t forget that we make our small sacrifices in response to the ultimate, perfect sacrifice: the body of Christ. And just as that sacrifice isn’t seasonal, nor shall our journey with God be.
Amanda Bartelson is a junior studying nursing, and is currently studying at SLU’s Madrid campus.