When I was in college a close friend of mine decided to give up beer for Lent: a difficult task, considering he is Irish, and inevitably St. Patrick's Day always falls during the Lenten season. Yet when the 40 days were up, and he cracked open his first beer at Easter dinner, he could not help but remark that though he enjoys beer, it is not essential to his happiness.
Lent calls us to "give up" things for this very reason. We are asked to abstain from things - many of which are good things - in order to direct our attention more fully toward the Lord's passion. As a result, Lent inevitably is a time of conversion. Pope Francis recently noted, "Lent is a strong time of conversion" in which we "live our baptism with greater profundity."
While it may be easy to acknowledge this, it begs the question: What does conversion look like in my life?
In Luke's Gospel, Ten Lepers approach Jesus to be cleansed. They cry, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!" (Lk 17:13). This suggests that conversion necessarily requires an attentiveness to the state of my soul - more specifically it requires me to be brutally honest about where I stand in my relationship with God. Recognizing this, we can then feel confident in crying out to the Lord, "Have pity on me!"
But the story does not end there - ten lepers were cleansed, and only one - a Samaritan - returned to "glorify the Lord in a loud voice" (Lk 17:15). Jesus' reply is telling:
Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
So conversion also requires gratitude. In the case of my friend giving up beer - it was a gratitude of knowing what is really important. What are you grateful for this Lent? How is this going to help you to "live your baptism with greater profundity?" Spend some time with Jesus and tell him.