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Lent is more than fasting
March 28, 2011
by Fr. Thomas Balluff, St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, Delano

Lent can be more than a time for fasting. It can also be a joyous season of feasting.

Lent is a season in which we try to:

• fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.

• fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.

• fast from ill thoughts; feast on the healing power of God.

• fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.

• fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.

• fast from anger; feast on patience.

• fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.

• fast from worry; feast on divine order.

• fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.

• fast from negatives; feast on affirmations.

• fast from pressure; feast on unceasing prayer.

Lent is the period of fasting leading up to the feast of Easter, recalling Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness. Catholic Lent begins Ash Wednesday and ends right before the evening Masses of Holy Thursday, although Lenten penance continues through Holy Saturday.

The liturgical color during this time is violet or purple. Liturgically, Lent lasts 44 days, beginning Ash Wednesday and ending before the Paschal Triduum (and includes Sundays). The traditional Lenten fast is observed for 40 days, starting Ash Wednesday, and going through Holy Week, excluding Sundays.

Many Christians throughout the world observe Lent. Catholic, Orthodox, and many Protestant religions look forward to this annual time of sacrifice and simplicity.

For non-Christians, Lent can be a bit of a mystery. For some, Lent is a period of going on a diet; for others, it is when Catholic co-workers show up to work with ashes on their heads, and fast-food restaurants start selling fish sandwiches. Many Christians, even those whose churches do not celebrate Lent officially, find they are attracted to Lent.

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning, a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him.

Thus, it is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes on one’s head or forehead. Our Lenten disciplines are meant to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit, helping us become more like Christ.

There are a few basic tasks that traditionally have been associated with Lent. Many of these have a long history. In addition to fasting, these include almsgiving, and prayer. In addition, reading the Scriptures and the Church’s writings can help one grow during Lent. Conversion of heart, hatred for sin, and a desire for deeper friendship with God are all part of the spiritual life which Lent helps to facilitate.

As we continue on our Lenten journey, let us redouble our efforts to put God first in our life.