The Meaning of Lent

I hear a lot of talk around this time about fasting. Lent after all is a way for us to fast and naturally gives us opportunity for good self reflection and centering. That is absolutely what it is designed to do. But as a priest it frustrates me because some of the fasting things I hear are really shallow, and completely miss the point.

Now, please don’t think that this is me being holier than thou. For some people, giving up chocolate or potato chips are a good and healthy fast. But the question needs to be made as well how is the fast helping me connect closer to God and moving me closer to holiness?

The church fathers that created the practice of Lent and Ash Wednesday, wanted a marked period of time of self reflection to prepare candidates for baptism and confirmation ( which at that time occurred in adulthood and in one fell swoop), as well as a time for those that for whatever reason were asked to separate themselves from community, to make steps to repent and be welcomed back to the fold. So Lent developed, and with it fasting, prayer and repentance became a way to make us holier and move us closer in connection with the divine. Which if we look closer at the readings we have, it is us created in holiness, Paul reminding us of our baptism that makes us holier, and Jesus fighting for our holiness.

Suddenly, that bag of potato chips that we are giving up, or the Hershey bar that we wont be touching, loose meaning. At least it does to me. So this Lent instead of looking at the easy fast. Why don’t we look at the things that will draw us closer to God? Pray a rosary, walk the journey with Christ to Calvary in the stations of the cross, meditate on your inner holiness. All of these things we will be doing. But also pray for the sin of the community and ask that the community seek a new way, such as the people on death row who may be innocent but in a rush to justice were convicted, or the person that you deem icky, but is actual a decent person.

In other words, join in this Lent for a change of mind and hearts. Cause that is the true meaning and spirit of the Lenten journey.