Today begins Lent, the Christian season of purification and preparation for the heart of the Christian drama, the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Generally, Lent is a season of sobriety. If you go to Mass today or in the next 6 weeks you're almost 100% certain to hear admonitions to mortify yourselves, to give up something, something important so as to come closer to Christ.
There's much to be said for a period of mortification; it helps to clean out the attic of the soul, to make room for something fresh and new.
And yet, giving up something just because we're told to give something up can be purposeless and empty, too. Consider our example, Jesus; in the New Testament he's not shown fasting from food or drink or company or any good thing. No, the mortification Jesus undertook was to do what he knew to be right -- to preach the word, give comfort to those who were sick or marginalized, to live the life God called him to -- despite all misunderstanding, pressure and threat. Even as the cross casts its long shadow our ritual these weeks, it's important to remember that the Jesus who heads to Jerusalem did so not ruled by fear (though certainly afraid), but by love, a love that was courageous.
If you're looking for a project this Lent, ask yourself each day, how can I be courageous in the way I love?