Lent is not a Diet Plan!
One of my best priest friends has coined what to me is the perfect Lenten phrase: “Lent is not a Diet Plan!” I have been borrowing it from him for many years now. Among other jobs, he runs the Catholic Apostolate Center in Washington, DC. If you haven’t been to their webpage or checked out any of their resources, add it to your Lenten to do list. They are a phenomenal source of information for the new evangelization.
So if Lent is not a diet plan, what is it? As we begin Lent today with Ash Wednesday, we better figure that out. Unfortunately, for many of us, Lent sneaks up, and by the time we decide what we want our Lenten journey to look like, it’s half over. Another common problem is making our Lenten observances so ambitious, that we have already fallen by the first Friday of Lent, and we just give up.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Lent shouldn’t be a tedious exercise in penance. It isn’t a time to give up something we shouldn’t do anyway, and it definitely shouldn’t be a time to use a Lenten Friday as an excuse to have lobster. And yes, it’s not a diet plan. While losing a few pounds probably won’t hurt any of us, Lent isn’t just some forty day wonder diet. That’s missing the point.
Lent is about much more than all of those things. It’s about conversion. And that conversion doesn’t have a forty day expiration date. Interior conversion should carry us well beyond Lent. It should change our lives.
I think sometimes, we overemphasize the whole “give something up” angle. There are many of us who use Lent as an opportunity to be active or to do something more. I have three magnets on my refrigerator. I was looking at them this morning, and I really like the Lenten challenge they issue. They read: “Forget Self;” “Be Real;” “Think of Others.”
Sounds pretty good to me. Lent should be a time to recover an authenticity with one another. I have written before about how frustrating it is to see so many people disengaged from true friendship and real relationships. So much of our society is focused on shallow encounters with one another. We can only communicate via a “like” or a text. In our crazy world, true friendship is defined not by trust and similar values systems or a common faith, but by an interaction with a picture or a tweet.
Another great priest friend is using Lent as a time to stop using text messaging. What a concept: actually picking up the phone to talk to someone! Now that’s a great way to work on being real.
So before Lent gets too far underway, stop and pray about where God wants to lead you these next weeks. Interior conversion requires some serious consideration. Be real. Forget self. Think of others, and give up chocolate if you want, but remember that Lent is not a diet plan.