Gotcha! You all thought I was going to say earnestly that Lent is not about giving things up but about doing something positive. I'm glad to say that this mantra is now becoming part of the recognisably tired corpus of the "reform that has to be reformed." Every year on Ash Wednesday I try to work the point in somewhere that nothing stops us from doing both.
Celebrating Septuagesimatide gives a neat opportunity to preach for three weeks on prayer, fasting, and alsmgiving - these topics can also be related easily enough to the scriptures read in the usus recentior and provide a good lead-in to Lent.
Today, I had three Masses. 10am is our normal time for weekday Mass and there was a good attendance. We also have a 4.15pm Mass on Holydays (although there are none to be celebrated in the week this year according to the "ordinary" calendar) and I do the same on Ash Wednesday; it is a convenient time for parents and children to attend after school. In the evening, we had our Missa Cantata which was also very well attended, Deo gratias. In addition, I call into the junior school late morning to bless and distribute ashes and give a little sermon.
Giving things up is important. Our Lord spoke many times of the need to deny ourselves and take up the cross to follow him. Prayer is essential and we all need to examine our conscience to see where we are failing in this duty, whether by laziness or by a failure to recognise and understand that when we pray, we are asking for an audience with the Most High. He grants this audience whenever we ask - what we need to do is to make ourselves - even if only a little and dimly - aware of Whom it is that we are addressing.
Almsgiving can be extended to all our works of charity; but we also need to see whether we have in fact dented our bank balance a bit by actually giving the folding stuff to Christ in the poor. It is even easier in many cases - we don't even have to thumb out greasy fivers but can write a cheque or tap a few buttons on the keyboard. The key test is whether it hurts just a little bit - whether we give Our Lord something we ourselves would value.
The main point of my preaching today, however, was to follow through the purpose of things. We give things up etc. not to become fitter or more physically healthy but as a penance, a recognition of our sins and a mark of repentance for them. We do this because sin offends Our Lord who loves us and died for us on the Cross. He died to make us happy - for eternity one day in heaven, but also in this life by giving us that peace and deep-seated joy that the Saints knew even in the midst of appalling tribulations.
I am humbled and inspired by the generosity of young bloggers in their penances each Lent. May God bless you and grant you an abundance of grace in this season of penance.