Lent 2024

It seems like we put our Christmas tree away just a couple of days ago, but as we were celebrating the fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, our pastor pointed out to us that Lent is rapidly approaching. He also gleefully pointed out to us that this year, Ash Wednesday will overshadow Valentine's Day since it lands on the same day this year. He has nothing against Valentine's Day, except the fact that little hearts start popping up in the store the day after Christmas and remain during the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany. 

With Lent just a little over a week away, the age-old question is popping back into the small talk of my Catholic social circles, “What are you giving up this year?” I’ve always struggled with this question because I definitely tend to pressure myself into choosing something too hard or choosing to do too much. However, this Sunday’s readings came at the perfect time and helped me reflect on what God may be calling me to abandon until Easter Sunday. 

…he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. The gospel recounts Jesus healing Simon’s mother-in-law from a fever and then spending the rest of the night healing more people with various diseases and driving out many demons. Despite having a late night, Jesus wakes up early the next morning and goes off by himself to pray in a deserted place. This passage made me think of approaching lent in a different way. Instead of thinking about giving something up, this year I am asking myself, “What deserted place is Jesus inviting me into this Lent?” 

Deserts are vast, empty, filled with silence, and usually have little to no signs of life. During Lent, we are called to follow Jesus into the desert, not in a literal sense, but in a way that allows us to eliminate what distracts us from authentic prayer and communion with God. My wife has been thinking of giving up listening to secular music and only allows herself to play Christian music.  However, in the past couple of days, she is leaning more into cutting out all music completely. I feel like this is the deserted place that God is calling her to, a place of silence where she hopes to hear God’s voice with more clarity. 

What is that deserted place for you that will allow you to pray better? Is God calling you away from the noise made by political podcasts, social media, spotify, video games, or television? Recently I heard that we are the most distracted generation in human history because there is so much content and noise around us all the time. I was shocked to discover that in the past couple of months, I’ve been passively filling all my time with some kind of noise, whether its a three hour podcast, or music, or Youtube video playing in the background while I work or cook or workout. This is why I am giving up music to give God more opportunities to speak to me. 

…”Everyone is looking for you.” When the disciples realized that Jesus was gone, they went looking for him. Everyone, whether they believe in God or not, is looking for God. When we pursue happiness, love, freedom, peace, and fulfillment, we are searching for Jesus Christ. And just like so many that have gone before us, humans try to find happiness and fulfillment in the things of this world, like money, pleasure, and power but they never find him. Jesus is more often in the deserted places. In the silence, he speaks the Truth. In the darkness, he is Light. In a world that offers us ways to numb ourselves and keep us from feeling the realities of pain and suffering, Jesus is on the cross, saving us from death. The greatest lie the world tells us, is that a holy life will not satisfy us, but the Church promises that if we follow Jesus and walk in his ways, we will taste and see the goodness of the Lord. 

As we prepare to enter into the season of Lent, spend some time in prayer and ask God to guide you into the desert with Him. Reflect on what God may be asking you to abandon so that you may be better able to commune with Him. Below are some ideas to get you started! 

  • Give up podcasts and/or music
  • Silence in the car (no radio, music, or podcasts)
  • No phone allowed in bed
  • Go on a walk everyday without your phone 
  • No phone for the first two hours of the day
  • No YouTube
  • No tv or streaming
  • 20 minutes of daily (spiritual) reading
  • Spend 20 minutes in silent prayer after reading the Bible or spiritual book
  • Read 33 Days to Morning Glory or Consecration to St. Joseph
  • No Social media
  • Give up excessive phone use
  • Give up video games
  • Stick to a bedtime and get at least 7 hours of sleep
  • Exercise 3 times a week 
  • Go to an additional mass every week besides Sunday mass
  • Read the gospel every day
  • Read a book of the bible (Gospel of John)
  • Read a spiritual book (anything by Fr Jacques Philippe)
  • Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  • Cold showers
  • Give up buying coffee and make it at home
  • Fast twice a week
  • No alcohol
  • No dessert or sweets
  • No snacks between meals
  • Just water (no soda, tea, or coffee)
  • Give up unnecessary online shopping 
  • Attend Adoration at your local parish once a week
  • Research volunteer opportunities at your local parish and serve once a week
  • Give up headphone or airpod use

If any of the items above made you cringe a little, that’s a good thing! Lean into what makes you uncomfortable and choose to do what is difficult and what will make you holier. Do not be afraid to follow Jesus into the desert. I pray you may find Him and grow closer to his Sacred Heart.