What are you giving for Jesus?

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Even though we have one of the latest dates for Easter this year (April 17), which gives us a later start to Lent, the impending date of Ash Wednesday always gives me a surprise! March 2nd  is less than a week away, and my thoughts are: “What am I going to do for Lent?” In particular, “What am I going to give up for Lent?” Last year, I gave up Facebook, which now has a different name that most people don’t know or remember! For me, that was a sacrifice that gave me more free time. But what did I do during that free time?  Nothing particularly of note!

Our Eastern Orthodox Christian sisters and brothers really do “give up” a lot during Lent, starting with the Sundays before the first day of Lent:  They give up meat, cheeses, and dairy products throughout this Season until the end of the “Pascha” (Easter Eve/Day) Service. A reason for “giving up” things during Lent is to identify with our Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave up his very life for us, with all its privileges, so that we, in turn, might give our lives to Him by helping others.

Although “giving up” may be a good move for us as we approach this Holy pre-Easter Season, I have come to believe that we need to look differently at the “giving up” and change it to “GIVING.” In the wake of a wave of “individual rights” vs. the welfare of the community, along with a pandemic that has made most of us weary and agitated, I feel that we need to acknowledge our feelings. At the same time, however, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to move us beyond these feelings to see the face of Jesus in all people. So, rather than “giving for Lent,” I feel that we need to give for JESUS, who identifies with the “least of our sisters and brothers.” (See Matthew 25: 31ff, “The Final Judgment”).

From an article I read on the Internet,

“Instead of giving up chocolate, fizzy drinks or chips, many others use Lent as a period to help others. Hundreds of people take part in the “Lenten Positive Acts Challenge” as another way to show praise for God. Participants perform one positive act for each of the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. These acts can include calling up someone who is alone, donating to a worthy cause, clearing up after dinner and letting someone go ahead of you in a supermarket [checkout line].”

From The Telegraph, Jan. 28, 2022: “Lent 2022: What to give up, how long it lasts and the meaning behind the season” by Juliet Eysenck and Raven Saunt

Although many sources of media make this world feel smaller, the lack of deep, personal interactions among people has also become more prevalent in recent months. One of my friends cited a recent survey that shows that the main problem that most people are facing today is lonelinessThe social distancing required of us due to the pandemic has exacerbated this feeling.  

During this Season of Lent, I encourage you to participate in All Saints’ Services of Ash Wednesday and in those Lenten opportunities offered by All Saints’ and our Diocese, which are listed in the Weekly Word.  But instead of just “giving up” something for Lent (which, by the way, you’re still encouraged to do!), how about “giving” of our time, talent, energy, and resources for Jesus, whom we are challenged to see in the faces of those who are lonely, needy, or otherwise marginalized? The “Lenten Positive Acts Challenge,” which was mentioned in the above quote, may be a good way to give ourselves anew to Jesus, and to “be Jesus” for those in need.  In doing so, you will be a blessing to those in need, since they will see the love of Jesus in your random acts of kindness, and in turn, the Holy Spirit will move them to help others in Jesus’ name. Our acts of love and kindness, done in Jesus’ name, will help build a “Godly community of love and peace” in a world broken by poverty, discrimination, abuse of power, threat of war, disease, and natural disasters.

My prayer for you and yours this Lent is that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we will give for Jesus, in our daily random acts of kindness. And, God willing, this will not only be a “Lenten discipline” for us, but a new way of life and love as God’s beloved disciples in the world. The result should be a new way of looking at our crucified and risen Savior, who is loving us all in our midst!

Take care, God bless, and have a Holy Lent and Easter!

Faithfully, in our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave His all for us and the world,

Jim Bernacki+