Giving Up Attachments for Lent
As we begin the 2nd week of Lent, it is important to take time out to “check-in” with ourselves and our Lenten plan. Whether we’ve decided to give up chocolate, Facebook, soft drinks, or decided to add a new devotion or spiritual component to our lives, the key to any Lenten sacrifice is to exercise our spiritual muscles! Giving something up (or for that matter adding something new to our routine like daily Mass) offers us an opportunity to stretch and strengthen our Self-Discipline–[often one of the largest and most out of shape spiritual muscles...] These exercises in self-discipline give us the ability to get that much closer to our ultimate goal: conformity with God’s will!
Blessed Columba Marmion captures the essence of Lenten detachment in his masterful work Christ, the Life of the Soul. He writes:
The more there is in us of dependence of love in regard to God, of conformity of our free will to our primordial end which is the manifestation of Divine glory, the more we adhere to God (something which can only be achieved through detachment from everything that is not of God), the more, finally, that this dependence, this conformity, this adhesion, this detachment is firm and stable–the higher will be our holiness.
So time to check-in with yourself: is what I’ve decided to give up and/or do differently during this Lenten season bringing me closer to my ultimate goal of holiness?? Are these choices helping me to adhere to God? Am I detaching myself from all that is not of God? How have these acts of self-discipline made discernment of God’s will for my life easier?
One exercise we can do to work towards greater detachment is to make a list… well, two lists. It’s amazing that when we write things down how much easier it is to acknowledge their existence. List #1 should be all of the things in our lives that are not of God: fear, anxiety, worry about the future, our control issues, sin, selfishness, escape mechanisms, mindless distraction, toxic relationships, etc. List #2 should be all of the things in our lives that are of God (or a gift from God): time, health, family, relationships, ability to serve, ability to work, financial abundance, our gifts, etc. Read over these lists daily–use them as an examination of conscience… what of list #1 do I need to detach from? What of list #2 am I taking for granted? Next, apply these lists to your Lenten journey. If on List #1 you have “unhealthy obsession with Facebook,” perhaps limiting your Facebook time to one hour per week is a better penance than no caffeine.
If we know our goal is holiness (and according to Marmion, that requires detachment from things that are not of God), and we acknowledge that Lent is a great time to work towards such detachment, it is important that the choices we’re making in Lent are helping us to reach that very goal!