Lent is about love: A Challenge for Families

3 mins read
Family Lent

We’re more than a couple of weeks into Lent by now, but it’s still worth looking a little more closely at how we think of this season.

We tend to view Lent as a project. We decide what we will do for God to somehow make ourselves pitiable enough to convince him to have mercy on us. These efforts are rooted in the best intentions, but they miss the point. Lent isn’t a project; it’s an invitation.

The real reason we’re called to focus on prayer, fasting and being more generous with our gifts and service is because that is how we respond to God’s invitation to let him love us more and to share that love with others.

We step up our prayer life during Lent to tell God, “I don’t know how to live and love the way you want me to. Please teach me.”

We fast from simple pleasures to remind ourselves that our relationships with God and the people in our life need to matter more than things. And, rather than hiding behind a wall of guilty pleasures, we need to draw comfort, joy and meaning from the intimacy we build with God and the people who share our life.

We give more generously of our time and treasure so that we can remember that all the things God gives us are meant to be used to bless the people in our lives, not hoarded to make a metaphorical security blanket that allows us to foster the illusion of invulnerability.

Lent isn’t about “giving something up” for the sake of giving it up. It’s about giving up the things that get in the way of learning how to love — not in the way that comes naturally to us, respects our limitations and lives within our comfort zones, but in a new way that only God can teach us, and only if we ask him. Every day. With an open heart.

Through the CatholicHOM (Households on Mission) app, we created the CatholicHOM 40 Days for Families Challenge to remind families that Lent is, first and foremost, an invitation to love more, to love better and to love deeper. That call begins in our families, our domestic churches. Pope St. John Paul reminded us that building the kingdom of God isn’t really about doing BIG THINGS FOR JESUS. It’s about doing small things with great love, little things that make our relationships stronger, deeper, healthier and holier — beginning with our families, because family relationships are the building blocks of society and the Church.

Every day, our CatholicHOM team of pastoral counselors and coaches helps whole families come together in prayer to discover how simple sacrificial acts can help them create a stronger team, show up for each other in new ways, take better care of each other, and discover how they can become what every Christian family is called to be; God’s blessing to each other and the world.

It’s exciting to see the changes that Lent is making in the daily lives of our members as they move away from viewing Lent as a project and begin seeing it as an invitation to increase their capacity to receive and share God’s love with their spouse, children and the world.

Whether or not you feel called to participate in the CatholicHOM 40 Days for Families Challenge (it’s not too late!). I hope you’ll move away from seeing Lent as a project and, instead, view it as an invitation to experience and share God’s love more deeply.

As we continue through Lent, don’t just “give up something.” Give up something that stops you from being the husband, wife, mom or dad, son or daughter, brother or sister who God is calling you to be — the person your family needs you to be.

This Lent, by all means, give more generously of your time, treasure and talents to everyone, but start by giving more of yourself to your spouse and kids or your parents, brothers and sisters. Remember St. Paul’s admonition that when we refuse to serve our families with all our hearts, we’ve denied the Faith and are worse than unbelievers (cf. 1 Tm 5:8).

Stop treating Lent as a project. Instead, respond to it as an invitation God is giving you to receive and share his love more generously with the people in your life — beginning with the people under your roof.

Dr. Greg Popcak is the founder and host of the CatholicHOM (Households on Mission) app. Learn more at CatholicHOM.com

Dr. Greg Popcak

Dr. Greg Popcak is an author and the director of www.CatholicCounselors.com.