“Help! It’s Ash Wednesday, and I still don’t know what I am giving up for Lent!

For many of us, Lent creeps up as a surprise. New year, new semester, and then BAM! Right in the middle of Midterms, the church encounters Christ in a deeper way, entering the desert with Him and being led by the Spirit.

So if you have not decided what to “give up,” do not fret - I have an idea. I invite you to let go of who you are and turn to Christ to BECOME who you were made to be. Give the old “you” up. Enter into the desert with your Beloved. In my contemplation, this is done in a threefold manner: fasting, growing, and almsgiving.

First, regarding fasting, “What should I give up for Lent?,” is a question that has been expressed among many of my friends during these past few weeks. But the real questions are, “What’s keeping you from Christ? What prevents you from prayer? What things, or people, in your life guide you into sin?” Praying about these questions will give you the answer as to what you should give up for Lent. Sure, it is great to give up sweets to give up something sacrificial. But how about giving up gossip? Giving up lies? Giving up being rude? Giving up indifference? Transform yourself this Lenten season to become a little more like Christ: a little more loving, a little more honest, a little more gentle, a little more kind. That is the true sacrifice: changing your heart to turn to Christ.

Second, Lent is not only about fasting or “giving up” - think about “adding.” It is about growing - growing deeper in love with Christ. In order to do that, we add prayer to our routine. If you already have a daily prayer life, add a little more. Perhaps you should add five minutes of prayer to your daily schedule in the morning. Or perhaps you should dedicate an hour to a holy hour, once a week. Reflect upon, “How is God calling you to encounter Him deeper this Lent?”

Lastly, Lent’s about almsgiving. Don’t just “give up” - “Give back!” Many times when we think of almsgiving, we assume it has to do with money - and indeed, it can. However, there is so much more that you can give: you can give your true self; you can give your time; you can give your joy; you can share your talents. Perhaps one way you can give back starts right here: at Newman Catholic, we have an “Extra Mile Service” that runs every Friday night, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. We pack small lunches, which we then give to our needy brothers and sisters in Penn Station.

Another way to give alms (that particularly resonates with students) is to give more of yourself: be fully present and engaged where you are, with those in front of you. Have you ever gone to dinner with friends and family, and noticed that, although physically present, they were not “there” with you at all; rather, they were using the phone the entire time, or even randomly checking social media and texting others. Perhaps that is you. Instead, give yourself: give your time to your friends and family, and be present where you are. Let those you’re with know how much you love them, and how much they mean to you, by simply giving yourself fully to each moment with others. You’d be surprised how much more Christ is present in such moments.

Lent is not just about giving up pizza or soda, but about giving up what’s prohibiting you from loving God to the fullest. So I invite you to turn to Christ with new resolutions this Lenten season, all based on the resolution to love Him deeper.

Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving. God Bless you and your resolutions - and make sure whatever you do, you do with love.

Praying for you,

Newman Catholic Newark