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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

This Lent Let's Expand Our Prepositions

When we think of Lent we often think of giving up something: a particular food, a bad habit, some of our hard-earned cash. But this Lent, we might want to consider expanding our prepositions. Along with giving up we might want to consider giving togiving awayor giving back

What might we give to this Lent? First we can give time and attention to God, that is, we can choose to devote a certain amount of time ash wednesday childeach day to prayer. If you’re taking the time to read this blog, I suspect prayer is already a priority for you. And that’s great. Most parishes offer a parish mission during Lent, a few evenings of talks by an outside speaker. We might want to give some of our time to that experience. This Lent we can also make a conscious effort to give our time and attention to others: an elderly relative, a lonely neighbor, a challenging co-worker. We might also focus on others closer to home: the spouse we sometimes take for granted, the child we might be struggling with, a particular Sister we live with but barely know, or the good friend we haven’t talked to in ages.

We might also choose to give away this Lent. It’s simple. We can stand before our open closet and see what items are in there that we can give away to our local thrift store or homeless shelter. We can check out our drawers, cupboards, and basement shelves for things others could be using. De-cluttering can be a fine Lenten practice. We might also choose to give away some of our time for a cause we really believe in—by reading up on the issue, for example, or by contacting our representative in congress. Or we can give away some time for volunteering at our church, our child’s or grandchild’s school, a women’s shelter, or even the local animal rescue shelter. They are always in need of volunteers to walk dogs or play with cats.

We can also give back during this time of Lent. As the old proverb says, “We stand on the shoulders of giants”, those people who have gone before us and whose contributions make our lives not only pleasant but also possible. What can we give back that will help insureliving simply a good future for our children, grandchildren, and generations beyond? Recycling is one way we can give back. Sorting out the plastic, cans, glass, and papers is a small thing, but it can have a big impact on our environment. Eating more healthily (less sugar, salt, and red meat, for example) can contribute to our overall health and well-being while sharing the earth’s resources more equitably.

When I think of these three prepositions, giving to, giving awayand giving backI can’t help but think of Jesus. Jesus gave time to God by sometimes sneaking off by himself to a lonely place, a mountain, or a garden to pray. Jesus also gave his time and attention to others—from his friends and disciples to total strangers. He noticed people whom others ignored or shunned—like the widow slipping her coins into the temple treasury or Zacchaeus sitting up in that tree. Jesus also  gave away. He had no home, no place even to lay his head. When he was dying on the cross, his sole possession, his seamless garment, was “raffled off” to one of the soldiers. And Jesus gave back. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he handed back his entire being to Abba his father, saying, “Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” (Mk. 14:36). On the cross he repeated this complete self-donation with the words, “Father I place my life in your hands” (Jn. 19:30: from The Message, Eugene Peterson translation). Jesus gave until there was nothing more to give.

jesus on cross

In all of this talk about giving, we must remember the why and how of our giving. We don’t give for giving’s sake. Our Lenten practices are not some kind of athletic endeavor that says, “See how good and strong I am!” No, we give because God gives to us first. So grateful are we to God for our many blessings that our gratitude breaks out into giving! That’s why we give. And we give with love and joy. That’s how we give. Anything less is not worthy to be a Lenten practice. My prayer for all of us is a simple one: May God bless our Lent, our six week journey of giving up, giving to, giving away, and giving back! Amen.

24 Responses

  1. Wonderful reflection on Lent Sr. Melanie.

    I have a very challenging co-worker in my life right now. I am praying for guidance on how to give to her.

    Kathleen

  2. Thanks, Melanie for the wonderful examples of spreading God’s unconditional love this Lent and beyond.
    God’ love enfold you.
    Josita

  3. What a wonderful reflection, and a needed reminder to give away, back, and to. Some progress has been made recently, but there is plenty of room for more!

    Have a blessed and holy Lenten season, Sr. Melannie.

  4. Hello
    I enjoy your meditations, Sister, and mail them to the prisoners with whom I correspond, who tell me they enjoy them, too.

    I was interested that in this most recent meditation you quoted the Bible translation, “The Message” by Rev. Eugene Peterson. He was my pastor at Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, MD, for my growing-up years and one of the main influences to my eventually entering the Catholic Church, and I often use his Bible translation with our high school girls here at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, DC.
    God bless you and your sisters!
    S.Mary Roberta Viano, VHM
    Georgetown Visitation Monastery
    1500 – 35th St., NW
    Washington, DC 20007-2700

    1. Dear S. Mary Roberta, Thank you for writing. I was introduced to Peterson’s translation of the Bible several years ago during a retreat. I found his translation often gave me new insights into a text. And the translation is so “user friendly” I can see why you use it with high school students. It must have been a privilege to have had him as your Pastor! Thank you again–and may you have a blessed Lent! S. Melannie

    1. Dear Amy, Yes, I knew the reflection would be incomplete without the why and how of giving. The why and how we do anything is very, very important. May you have a blessed Lent! Sr. Melannie

  5. Dear Sister,
    We have been down and I finely was able to see the four men singing
    amazing grace this was my brothers song which he played on his flute until he passed away. I enjoyed this very much
    Your lent reflection on Prepositions giving to, giving away or giving back helps me to stretch and hopefully bring me closer to Jesus
    Thank you ,
    Sister Betty Ann

    am

    1. Dear Sr. Betty Ann, How nice that you can associate your deceased brother with “Amazing Grace.” And I’m glad you were able to access Il Divo’s version of the song. Thank you for writing–and have a blessed Lent! Sr. Melannie

  6. Hi Sr. Melannie… It’s been a long time… hope all is well…
    just wanted you to know I truly enjoy your blog… I look forward to it every Monday…
    It enlightens my meditations on my life’s journey…
    I always look at lent, kind of a New Years resolution… not so much as sacrificing things like candy… but what can I give to make someone else happy… what can I change to make me a better person… what can I do & be as a good christian… I feel that lent is a refreshing of my soul with the guidance of the Holy Trinity…
    Thank you again… looking forward to the next week…

    1. Dear Mary, How nice to hear from an “old” friend. I like your comparison of looking at Lent as a kind of “New Year’s Resolution.” And thank you for your good reflective questions. Melannie

  7. Great ideas! For the past 5 or so years I have given up shopping! For myself that is! I made a decision that I wouldn’t buy anything for myself that wasn’t essential. It was hard at first, but now I’ve been able to extend that throughout most of the year! I often will pick something from the rack, walk around the store and then tell myself “you don’t need that” and then put it back and leave the store! It is so liberating!
    Thanks for the reflection. I’m looking for something else to do this lent.

    1. Dear Chris, You’ve given us a good example of a simple yet challenging Lenten practice. It’s also interesting that you find this practice “liberating.” Thank you for the suggestion! I hope all is well in Texas! Melannie

  8. Thanks you so much for providing us with a road map for this lenten season. I will share it with my adult sons and my husband so they, too, can benefit from this timely, practical, and spiritual guidance.
    Thanks again, Sister Melannie. You are a blessing to us readers…

  9. Hi Sr. Melannie

    Thank you for another great reflection. I went to St. Paschal’s
    Noon liturgy and Fr. mentioned that it isn’t”t about giving up ” booze” and candy but more of giving and sharing. It should be a joyful season with our fasting and almsgiving and not a somber one. My thoughts are: God loves a cheerful giver…so I will cheerfully do my best to make this Lent very meaningful especially for others.

  10. Thanks Melannie for this reflection on Lenten “prepositions” .
    I took the liberty of sharing it on our parish blog.

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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