What are you giving up this Lent?

Kudakwashe Matambo  Religion Correspondent
SO what are you giving up for Lent?

Many Catholics have been asked this question by friends or family members, especially around this period of lent. I have been asked that by friends, and to be honest it’s so embarrassing to say out some of the things I must give up.

On Ash Wednesday, almost every Catholic — including those who don’t regularly attend mass — had their foreheads smeared with ashes. The day’s rites include smearing ashes on the head of the faithful as a reminder of mortality.

The ashes symbolise dust from which God made us. As the priest rubs the ashes to a person’s forehead, he says: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

By the way, the priest is also reminded of the same.

This year, Ash Wednesday was celebrated on March 1. It marked the beginning of an important season, Lent. Lent is a preparatory season of prayer, fasting and alms giving. It lasts 40 days (excluding Sundays) and is more popular in Christianity.

Catholics are obliged to fast and abstain from sex on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and are encouraged to do so during the season of Lent. Which brings the question of giving up.

The concept of fasting, as is understood in the Church, encourages the faithful, to restrict themselves to items, food, habits or various materials that are dear to them. During the days of penance, Christians are “to devote themselves to prayer, engage in charity works of piety and to give up something.”

One can give up liquor, food, smoking, flirting and certain behaviours like unnecessary shopping (which creates a throw away culture) or even lack of patience. The act of giving up something should be followed by adopting a positive action.

Celebrating mass in Rome, Pope Francis said Lent is a time for saying no to “the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words”; no to “a prayer that soothes our conscience, an alms giving that leaves us self-satisfied, a fasting that makes us feel good”, no to all forms of exclusion.”

Giving up something, should not be about stopping yourself in taking alcohol or spending lots of time on social media,with the intention of going back to the usual after Lent. It should inspire giving up certain aspects of one’s life for good.

Aspects that are not good, and that distract one from building a stronger and more passionate relationship with God. We should give up things that are harmful to our bodies and soul. One could fast using social media, but is not internet pornography or abusing drugs more harmful?

Is giving up watching television less harmful than neglecting your family?

Do you not want to give up all those hours spent with friends and start rebuilding family relations, and pray, and create time for God?

The period of lent should usher a sense of renewal. The Holy Father, Pope Francis said “Lent is a time to start breathing again… the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust to humanity.”

Wanting to be rich or to have money is not bad just like using social media or latest technologies, but if we become addicted, they will be deadly to us and to others as well.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink and commit to our faith in giving up something. Think about what is really harmful to you and try giving it up this lent

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