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 to, giving away, or 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 each 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 insure 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 away, and giving back, I 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.
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.
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.
Dear Kathleen, I’ll pray for guidance for you to deal with this challenging situation. We never have to look far for a Lenten practice. Sr. Melannie
Thanks, Melanie for the wonderful examples of spreading God’s unconditional love this Lent and beyond.
God’ love enfold you.
And thank you for your beautiful response, Josita! Blessings on your Lent! Melannie
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.
Thank you, Mary! And may you have a blessed Lent too! Sr. Melannie
As always, your words are truly “‘Words of wisdom.” Such practical ways to make this Lent our best yet. Thanks again, Sister Melannie.
Thank you for responding, Penny. May you have a rich and practical Lent! S. Melannie
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
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
Dear Sr. Melanie,
Thank you so much for including the why and how of giving — these thoughts are so insightful and such a necessary part of our spirituality. Thank you.
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
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
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
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…
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
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.
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
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…
And thank you, Lourdes, for sharing my blog with others. Many blessings on your Lenten journey! Gratefully, Sr. Melannie
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.
Dear Nancy, Thank you for reminding us that Lent should be about cheerful giving, and not just giving. Sr. Melannie
Thanks Melannie for this reflection on Lenten “prepositions” .
I took the liberty of sharing it on our parish blog.
Dear Pat, I’m glad you could pass on this little reflection to your parish! Hope you’re having a good Lenten journey! Melannie