Lent comes from the Old English, Lencten which means springtime, which is that time of intensive growth of new life. Just as God lifts back the blanket of snow to foster growth in his world, so also do we lift back the things that may be smothering our growth. God is our highest Good, but if we are honest with ourselves, God has competitors in our lives. We are half-hearted creatures too easily pleased with the fleeting things around us. So often we fill our bellies but not our hearts, and screens numb our minds while we starve our spirit. We humans have this nasty tendency to prioritize things that mean little when we know what matters most.
In short, our Lord is giving us a springtime to do some spring cleaning inside. What are the little goods in life that are preventing you from the highest Good? Our “Yes” to screens, foods, and comforts might be good in themselves, but they leave us simply content and not fulfilled. They can become pacifiers for us, a distraction from our true need, which of course is the spiritual need that only God fills. So fast, do penance! We, the children of God, do not need pacifiers when we express our discomfort; no, we need spiritual food, to be held, to be loved. The love of the Father alone can quell our aching hearts. By fasting from our pacifiers, that is our lesser goods, we force ourselves to find nourishment from God alone.
So here is an easy way to prep for Lent. Honestly name your top two pacifiers (goods that you like but don’t really nourish you spiritually), and give up one (or both if you are really ready to grow). The most common ones are unnecessary screens (Internet, cellphone, TV), and unnecessary foods. Let yourself be challenged this Lent and give them up. Don’t cheap out, either. Do not just give up chocolate and then pig out on chips; just fast between meals or fast from all sweets and junk foods. Do not just give up YouTube and then waste your Lent on Netflix or video games. Give up unnecessary media, period. If we are unable to say “No” to lesser goods, how can we ever learn to say “Yes” to the highest Good?