I won’t ask how your Lent has gone. It’s gone, whether you went along with it or not. That’s the nice thing about the liturgical year: It keeps on chugging along, and if you bobbled it this time, it will come around again. I mean, eventually you will die and run out of chances, but I’m sure you already knew that. Did you already know that?
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that your Lent has gone fairly well—that is, you did an okay job of picking some kind of penance or sacrifice, one that matches up well with your actual life.
You took the good advice to tailor your penitential practices to the sins and weaknesses you find yourself bringing to confession month after month, so you can make progress on the things that actually need progress in your life. Good job!
Or, let’s say you just picked something “medium penitential” and kind of random, because it’s Lent and you don’t have the guts or the brain power to pick something especially insightful or useful. But at least it’s something. (If I sound rude here, it’s because I’m talking about myself.)
Let’s say you’ve done a great job of sticking to your chosen penance. Or, better yet, let’s say you’ve done a great job of not sticking to it.
Let’s say you’ve failed to do the thing you resolved to do, or failed to give up the thing you resolved to give up, maybe more than once, and you’ve learned the very important Lenten lesson that Lent is about God’s mercy and forgiveness, not about our own impressive toughness. (Again, that would be me. I’ve learned so much this Lent!)
Whether you’ve chosen something insightful or something run-of-the mill, whether you’ve carried it out perfectly, or tried and failed and tried again repeatedly, or only made a few stabs at it, the same advice applies: Don’t forget to offer it up.
It’s ridiculous how easy it is to forget this essential part. We can get so wrapped up in accomplishing (or not accomplishing) the penance or sacrifice itself, we forget the whole reason why we’re doing it.
We’re doing it to show sorrow for our sins, and to gain self-mastery, but most of all as an offering to God, for him to do with as he wishes. So don’t forget to actually offer it to him!
It’s just the same as if you were buying a present for someone, and then left it in the car. What’s the use in that? It doesn’t matter how thoughtful or expensive or beautifully wrapped it is, if it never gets to them. You have to actually deliver it, put it in their hands and tell them it is for them, from you.
If you’re going to forgo sugar in your tea, tell the Lord you’re doing it because you love his sweetness more, or at least you wish you did. If you’re going to get up when your alarm first goes off, rather than hitting snooze, tell him you’re doing it because the day ahead is a gift, and you want to be grateful for it.
Or you don’t have to make it that complicated. “Lord, I offer this up to you” is a very fine offering. I will admit to sometimes mentally sobbing, “HERE, TAKE IT” and considering that a spiritual bouquet of sorts, when I have something especially messy I want to offer up.
Jesus is not fussy or fastidious, but he does like it when you actually do something by choice, rather than just getting swept along by events; and he likes it when you talk to him. He really likes that.