Freeing Up Space During Lent


These days, if you want to record a program on TV, you can simply press a button to make it happen. Not so in the last century. Long before devices like DVRs and DVDs arrived on the scene, VCRs (Video Cassette Recorders) were the only means available to record a show.

Videocassettes, now antiques, were able to record two, four, or six hours of programs depending on the speed selected. The slowest speed (2 hours) would yield the highest quality and be just right for most movies. Blank tapes were readily available in stores, and the wise recorder would have several on hand for new shows, whereas the unwise would not. In either case, a decision would sometimes have to be made to delete a program to make room for a new one.

The process of deletion was difficult. Giving up one program to make room for another required careful deliberation. The mechanical clumsiness of the process that would determine just where the new material would fit, along with the anguish of deleting a favorite program, would often result in scrapping the idea altogether.

Freeing Up Space by Sweeping It Out

If we think of ourselves as vessels, and more particularly as videocassettes, we can think in terms of our capacity. As a glass full of liquid, some portion must be emptied to make room for a fresh pouring. As a videocassette full of content, some portion must be deleted to receive new material. Freeing up space is good; using the newly-found space is even better.

When it comes to freeing up space in our homes, a similar addition and subtraction process must take place. Two chairs and a table might be removed to make room for a sleeper-sofa in the guest room. Other items, though useful, might need to be pitched or relocated to accommodate new furnishings. Removing items in a room without replacing them would simply result in sparsity.

While a “sweeping out” of a room is a good, filling in space with objects more amenable to the room’s new purpose would be better. Good stewardship of our belongings requires ongoing rearrangement and replacement. If we picture the totality of what we possess as our treasure, the following passage from the Gospel According to Matthew might take on new meaning:

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matthew 13:52)

Freeing Space Through Abstinence

Removing items from our living quarters could be regarded as abstinence and the letting-go of the familiar and comfortable. Filling the void with “treasures” old and new, while adjusting to the resulting refurbishments, would serve the math of exchange in good stead.

When we abstain from something for Lent, it involves a degree of sacrifice. Chocolate, alcohol and social networking currently are at the top of the list of things to give up in the 21st century. Cheese is also consistently in the top ten (for some unknown reason). Students oftentimes list school (perhaps for obvious reasons). Abstinence, taken alone, can be worthwhile as a sacrificial offering. If we take what is “freed up” in terms of time and money, and “record over” the newly found space, we can give our Lenten sacrifices the wings of eagles.

Just think of it: The 30 minutes (10 minutes each for Alcohol, chocolate, and social networking), taken together or separately, can free up time and money for prayer and giving alms. Cheese may be harder to quantify but has value nonetheless, with the possible exception of the aerosol variety.


Giving up goodies, (as we were taught as children) and fasting from anger and bitterness (a more “adult” concept) might seem mutually exclusive. Some would suggest that we “put away the things of childhood” in favor of a more mature approach to Lent. Instead of an either/or construct, a both/and model of sacrifice might afford a better balance between “the real and the ideal.” What is “earned” in the process of fasting can be spent as new capital in the service of God and neighbor.

As we enter into the Lenten season, let us offer the yield of our sacrifices for the glory of God, and the benefit of our neighbor.

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