In my youth Lent was a time of personal sacrifice and strict adherence to the rules of fasting and abstinence. My mother observed Lent faithfully and passed her observances on to her children. She taught us about Lent in actions and attitudes rather than in theological terms. Her sacrifice was giving up sweets and her action was going to daily Mass as her mother had done, no easy task with 6 children.
My father drew strength for his life and built his social network around the church and while he was a progressive thinker, he was traditional when it came to his religious practices. The rules of what to eat or not eat and the responsibility to confess were always part of his Lenten experience. His Lenten sacrifices over the years included giving up cigarettes and his evening cocktail.
I share these Lenten stories about my parents because most of us learned how to honor Lent from parents and grandparents and while the practices have changed the desire to set aside the forty days, as Jesus did, is very much alive.
So, we come back to the question of how to honor Lent in 2021; a year unlike any for the last 100 years. The answer is clear, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The more difficult part is figuring out what this means and how to act on it.