Tuesday, February 5, 2008

In Preparation for Lent

Every year for Lent Catholics are expected to make some sort of sacrifice in preparation for the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the past several decades there has been less of an emphasis on the traditional fasting of Lent and more on "doing something". There is nothing wrong with doing something special for Lent but it seems to have become more of a fad than anything and we have forgotten what the point of this really is.

For thousands of years before Jesus was born fasting was used as a discipline, to deny the body of food in repentance for sins and to cleanse the soul. The Church has traditionally had fasting during Lent to cleanse our souls in preparation for the Resurrection of Jesus. Previously Catholics were only allowed one meal a day and absolutely no meat during Lent. Now we are only asked to give up one item, not necessarily a food, which we enjoy and to abstain from meat on Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

If you don't want to give something up you also have the option to "do something". Most people hear this and are like Oh great I'll just resolve to do all my homework, when everyone knows that you're not actually gonna do that and two days later when it doesn't work you're like "oh well guess that didn't work" and that's the end of it.

There's a couple problems with this. Number 1: When the Church says you can "do something" they mean something spiritual. There's nothing wrong with doing all your homework but it has nothing to do with God. "Doing something" means saying a rosary every day, or spending a half hour in the chapel, or going to Communion before lunch, something that is going to bring you closer to God. This isn't a New Year's Resolution. It's an attempt to prepare yourself for the death and resurrection of Christ.

Number 2: If, for example, you decide to give up cookies for Lent and you accidentally eat a cookie one night, that doesn't mean you should give up and go ahead and eat all the cookies you want since you already messed up. Same for if you decided to say a rosary every day and you forgot. It just means that you have to try a little harder. This is exactly the point of confession: you mess up but that doesn't mean it's over. You confess your sins and try harder. (I don't think you hafta go to confession for accidentally eating a cookie, I'm just making a comparison)

Whatever you decide to do, whether it is give something up or do something spiritual, you should make a conscious effort to do it, and if you mess up you say, I guess I'll just have to work a little harder at this. It's not supposed to be easy guys. This is all about sacrifice whether it's a food or something you like, or if it's your time, and sacrifice is always hard.

I think the Easter Bunny should have a rule, similar to Santa's naughty or nice rule: if you really tried to stick to your sacrifice during Lent and you made a conscious effort to prepare for the death of Our Lord then you get candy. If you gave up after two days then you don't.

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