I have always being skeptical of people “giving things up for Lent” – like alcohol, sugar, chocolates etc.

Very often the only benefits of this are the expansion of the sacrificer’s wallet and the decrease of the sacrificer’s waistline.

In that context, I gave always liked Robert Herrick’s poem from the back of the Breviary:

To Starve Thy Sin, Not Bin

To Keep a True Lent
by Robert Herrick

Is this a fast, to keep
The larder lean ?
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep ?

Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish ?

Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d to go,
Or show
A downcast look and sour ?

No ; ‘tis a fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat,
And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
From old debate
And hate ;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent ;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin ;
And that’s to keep thy Lent.

As he says if its just replacing expensive steak with expensive fish, what’s the use?

Or like the Pharisees of old – to let everyone know you’re fasting by your miserable look.

He suggests more positive things to do for Lent like sharing your food with the hungry or working on damaged relationships etc.

This is our second Covid Lent.

With government restrictions, etc, we all making lots of “sacrifices” this year.

So why not concentrate on the positive this Lent:

1. Dutifully wearing your masks and washing your hand to protect others as well as yourself.

2. Refraining from meeting in groups for gatherings and parties.

3. Going out of your way to safely deliver needed items to the housebound, the elderly, the sick etc.

4. Pray everyday in private for the sick, the hospitalised, the deceased and the bereaved.

5. Donate a bit extra to charities who are addressing urgent needs at present.

6. Go out of your way to regularly telephone people you know to be lonely and isolated even if such calls are a bit torturous.

COVID brings so much NEGATIVITY with it.

Maybe this Lent is a call to inject as much POSITIVITY into life as we can?

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great”.

St John Chrysostom