Lent: Love and Sorrow (Reprinted)


Adam Richins

Why do we choose to give up something for Lent? Fr. John Grieco explains.

“What are you giving up for Lent?” It’s that time of year again. We ask others and they ask us: “What are you giving up for Lent?” It can be fun to compare our Lenten resolutions with our friends, and we can even get excited about this yearly practice of “giving something up.” Everyone likes a good challenge, and going without our beloved sweets, or social media, or our favorite game, for seven weeks certainly provides a lofty challenge. As we begin the Lenten season, this is all well and good, but perhaps we should also ask ourselves another question: “Why?”

“Why am I giving something up for Lent?” This question is less popular but very important. The tradition of Lenten sacrifices has a deep spiritual meaning. To get the most out of “giving up,” it’s helpful to know this meaning and to live our Lenten resolutions for the deepest possible reasons.  

To understand why we give things up for Lent, it helps to ask the question in another way. “What do I say to God, and to myself, when I give something up?” What does a temporary, or permanent, sacrifice of a habit, a certain food, or technology, actually mean? What does it say?

Our sacrifices tell God that he is more important to us than the thing we are giving up. To quit watching YouTube for Lent is to tell God: “God, I love you more than YouTube! And that’s a lot!” This is very important for our spiritual life. To love God well, he should be loved above absolutely everything else.  

The things we tend to give up for Lent are often things that we know we like too much, are too attached to, or have grown dependent on. That’s why it’s a challenge to give them up, and that’s why we instinctively choose those things. When we love something too much, or become dependent on it, we realize that it gets in the way of loving God and depending on him. To give up anything for God tells God (and ourselves): “God, I love you more than this, and God I want to depend more on you!”

Our Lenten sacrifices also send God another important message: “I’m sorry.” Our sins offend God and hurt other people. It’s good for us to be corrected for our sins and to pay something back to God and others for our injustices. When a little child is punished by her parents, the punishment teaches an important lesson: “What you did was wrong and should be avoided in the future.” When criminals are punished by the law, a similar message is sent.  

During Lent, we voluntarily recognize that we should do something to make up for our misdeeds. We put ourselves in jail. We freely admit our guilt, and we show with our sacrifices that we want to make things right. To give things up is thus to tell God, and ourselves: “I am sorry for my sins, and I accept this sacrifice as a way to make up for them.” We all know from experience that sincerely recognizing our sins and showing true sorrow for them is liberating and joyful. What a relief!

“What are you giving up for Lent?” Something challenging, something I like too much.  “Why are you giving it up?” To tell God: “God, I love you, and God I am sorry for having offended you.” 


by Fr. John Grieco, Contributing Writer