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given-up anything for lent?

Cecilia Escobedo, a mother of five, is giving-up refined sugar for Lent. The Wall Street Journal reports her goal is to lose 10% of her body weight. Ms Escobedo sees no reason to feel guilty about wanting to shed pounds in a season focused on self-denial. The body is as important as the soul, she believes. “I have an obligation to take care of myself.”
The natural human tendency to be entangled by materialism provides the rationale behind “giving-up something for Lent”—for self-denial. Beginning with the beatniks of the 1950’s and continuing through the age of Woodstock, there existed a conspicuous minority who vocally questioned the proposition that life could be found in stuff.

Of course, beatniks and drop-outs were only the 20thCentury examples. Counter-cultural defiance bubbled up in most centuries. But since the 1980’s, most all cultures have embraced materialism. Yes, there are plenty of individuals and even pockets of resistance. But the dominant cultures on every continent define themselves materialistically. From science to philosophy, it is now granted that the material reality is the only certain thing. While some believe anything beyond material reality is unknown and unknowable, even more claim the material world is the only reality.

One of Jesus’ most profound claims was that
the material world is in fact nearly useless. Life cannot be found in the flesh, and by flesh Jesus was referring to both material things and human nature.

All our striving for fulfillment and joy in material things, or even human things, are doomed. The valuables we acquire become the stuff we have on the way to being the junk we dispose of. People we love will be lost to death, all of them. What’s worse, some will choose to abandon us—happens all the time via divorce, estrangements, even relocations for better opportunities.

So giving up something, anything for Lent is designed as a meager step to brace us for the losses the material world will inevitably inflict upon us. And, it’s a way of reminding ourselves that life doesn’t come from stuff, not even from the people we love and love us. Life originates from something, somewhere beyond the material world.

“The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life,” Jesus claimed. Then He added, “But some of you do not believe.” ~

Dan Nygaard