During Lent 2020 none of us imagined that we would be experiencing a very different world the following year. A year after COVID-19 took over our lives in the most vicious manner, here we are, still living among the shambles of the lockdowns (yes, plural) and trying desperately to figure out how to put the pieces back together. The question we must first ask ourselves though – what exactly are you trying to put back together? Have we not learned in the past year that there is so little we need to truly get through life and that this was a golden opportunity to learn what truly matters most?
Personally, I see no interruption between Lent 2020 and Lent 2021 – it has been one long, continuous period of sacrifice, renunciation and abstinence, more intense than any fasting or retreat we could have ever embarked on. So this year, I see no reason to give up even more things in my life during Lent.
Was social distancing, isolation, quarantine, home office and risky commutes to work during unavoidable times not sacrifice enough? I certainly think so and it definitely takes the place of giving up the more trivial things that we usually did during previous Lenten seasons – chocolates, sweets, TV, social media, etc. Ironically, these are the very things have become our lifeline to sanity.
The point of sacrifice and fasting during Lent is cleansing, flushing out all that has poisoned our bodies and souls over the past months. Some years ago the Catholic teachings changed and deemed corporal works of mercy an acceptable substitute to fasting during Lent. This was what my parents went with, and preferred over sticking to one full meal a day and no meat on Fridays and this is what I’m running with this year. For starters, giving up meat is no longer a sacrifice for me anymore since I hardly eat any these days, being mostly vegetarian. As for fasting, I only eat one full meal a day anyway, and that is breakfast, so that doesn’t apply to me as Lenten sacrifice either.
Social distancing and risking my health each time I get on the subway or bus however, is the ultimate sacrifice. Not being able to meet up with friends or the inability to accept photo shoots for the duration of lockdown is a sacrifice. Being unemployed twice in the past six months is a sacrifice. Seeking work during a time when hundreds of thousands have also lost their jobs or gone bankrupt is a sacrifice. Sleeping in the living room for the past year because I gave up my bedroom for my daughter (who herself had to give up student life in Italy and flee to Germany) has been a sacrifice. We all abstained from parties, picnics, family gatherings, travel, holidays dates and so much more this year. Bottom line is, in the past 12 months I have sacrificed and fasted enough for the next ten years, so I don’t feel compelled to do anything more this year.
Lent 2021 is not a time for further sacrifice, but for deepened prayer, renewal, self-care, empowerment, and re-learning the basics of caring for others.