When you hear the scribe say these words, you might wonder, “Isn’t Lent all about making sacrifices, like spending more time in prayer or fasting or giving alms? Don’t these practices have any value in God’s eyes?”
Of course, Jesus is pleased with all we are doing this Lent. But he wants us to do these actions not just out of a sense of duty or obligation but also with a desire to love him and the people he has created in his image. We do these things because God has loved us first. Furthermore, by sacrificing our time, talent, and treasure, we are acknowledging that all we have has been given to us by God in the first place. By offering it back to him, we are simply responding to the abundant love and generosity he has shown us.
Not only do our sacrifices and offerings express love for God and his people. They also build on that love and cause it to grow. For example, if you sacrifice some sleep so that you can make it to an early daily Mass, you are receiving more of Jesus’ grace and peace. If you spend your Saturdays at a soup kitchen, you are growing in mercy and compassion for the needy. Contributing to an inner-city student’s private school tuition can give you a personal connection to someone you might never otherwise know or pray for. Fasting provides you with more time and space to think about God and the sacrifice he made to save us.
Do you see the circular pattern here? As we sacrifice out of love for God and neighbor, we grow more in love for God and neighbor. Our sacrifices bear the fruit of love and mercy, perhaps in ways we don’t even realize.
Lent is not just about making sacrifices but about growing in love for God and neighbor through our sacrifices. May our Lenten practices prepare our hearts to rejoice in Christ’s resurrection on Easter Day—and may our desire to offer our lives for God and neighbor continue to grow throughout the year.
“Lord Jesus, may each sacrifice I make increase my love for you and for your people.”
Pour your grace into our hearts, we pray, O Lord, that we may be constantly drawn away from unruly desires and obey by your own gift the heavenly teaching you give us.