Sunday, Feb. 19, is the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B, Cycle II). Wednesday, Feb. 22, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a day of mandatory fasting and abstinence from meat, but not a holy day of obligation regarding Mass attendance.
Feb. 18 is the day of the consistory at the Vatican that will create 22 new cardinals, among them New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Archbishop Dolan told reporters that he called his mother to tell her he would be made a cardinal. Her response: “It’s about time.”
Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25; Psalm 41:2-5, 13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12
Lent is starting, and it is a good time to do what the men in the Gospel do: Remove obstacles to get closer to Jesus.
That is a good way to think of Lent. By giving things up or doing something spiritual, we aren’t engaged in an effort to make ourselves special; we are engaged in an effort to get close to Christ, even if it means razing the roof.
Or think of Lent in the terms St. Paul uses in his second reading. It is a time to turn our lives into a “Yes” to Christ. In order to do that, some things in our lives need to change.
So consider what to give up for Lent with this in mind: This is a time not to become a better person, but to become a more open person. Here is our list of things you might consider:
Ideas for Adults
Skip lunch one day a week.
Skip meat an extra day — or two — a week.
Give up alcoholic beverages — except in social situations where you would stand out otherwise; then have just one.
Give up soda — even diet soda.
Give up all desserts.
Don’t buy anything except groceries and absolute necessities.
Fast from listening to talk radio or music in the car.
Begin — or begin again — the daily Rosary.
Meditate for 10 minutes a day — Magnificat offers a wonderful daily meditation.
Attend Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy devotions or Eucharistic adoration.
Start a nightly habit of spiritual reading. For example, one of these new books: Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, as well as Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith.
Read the Compendium of the Catechism (just four pages a day will allow you to finish it in Lent).
Volunteer to deliver food to the poor.
Join the social-concerns committee at your parish.
Make a significant donation to a deserving charity with each Lenten paycheck.
Forgive someone, and tell him or her you want to patch things up.
Say a kind word to everyone you meet.
Pay one significant compliment — or more! — to each of your children every day.
Offer to watch the children of a new mother one day a week throughout Lent.
Visit an elderly friend or relative.
For Children and Teens
For younger folks, don’t be afraid of the adult ideas. But if none will work for you, try these:
Look for and address a need in your house every day.
Start asking, “Is there anything else I can do?” after you do what your parents ask.
Turn off your phone except for specific times at home.
Give up video games. Yes — entirely — throughout Lent (except Sundays!).
Send a note to each grandparent, aunt, uncle and godparent during Lent.
Make a new friend outside your “crowd.”
Be a friend to a shy person.
Give up that bad place, person or thing.
Choose a favorite toy, book or piece of clothing and put it away until Easter.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.