Who gives a toss? You can! A Lent reflection for YMCA Liverpool

This was what I put on a poster to invite residents of YMCA Liverpool (where I am part-time chaplain) to come and make pancakes last week.

The aim was to bring people together for a simple food making activity to mark the beginning of Lent, the time of preparation for the Christian festival of Easter every Spring.

The English word Lent comes from the Old English word for the Spring season – it’s also related to the word for length, as during this season the days grow longer as the light returns. Lent is traditionally a time of fasting, when people would give up eating certain foods for the forty days before Easter. Pancake Day is the day before the start of Lent – in Spanish it is known as Mardi Gras (‘Fat Tuesday’), a traditional time of festival, and the last day of feasting before beginning to fast for Lent.

Some people think of Lent as a time to make resolutions, a little bit like New Year – it might mean no chocolate or alcohol until they break the fast at Easter. It could be a time for self-denial or self-improvement.

If we want to go deeper, it’s good to think about what difference our sacrifice or commitment will make for others. For example, if you save the money you would have spent on treats, to which good cause might you donate it?

A more radical approach that has gained momentum online in recent years is the #40bagsin40days challenge, which invites people to take time to declutter at least one item from your wardrobe or home each day, to go to a charity shop.

All of this may help those of us who have more than enough to appreciate it and not take it for granted. For many of residents at Liverpool YMCA, for whom not having enough to eat has been a daily reality, the idea of ‘giving up’ seems irrelevant, even insensitive. Those of us with more than we need can do something to make a difference in solidarity with them.

What may be more meaningful for us all is to think of Lent as an opportunity to reflect on our attitudes and behaviours and how they impact on others, for better or worse. The image below shows suggestions for reflection taken from the words of Pope Francis.

What does Lent mean to you?

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