When I was a kid, Lent didn’t mean a whole lot. Lent meant getting a filet-o-fish instead of a cheeseburger in my usual Friday Happy Meal. It meant that the music at Mass got more ‘serious,’ and we didn’t say the “A” word: you know, (Allelu—). It meant that soon Easter was coming and do you know what that meant? That’s right . . . an Easter egg hunt against my brothers!
It seems like many Catholics who ‘give things up’ for Lent don’t really know why and just proceed to make the rest of the world miserable. An example: I tried giving up caffeine one year. Not a good idea. It took a couple of weeks for the headaches to wear off but even after that I was still pretty difficult to get along with. Okay, I was impossible to get along with.
So what really is the big deal with Lent, and what’s the point of those sacrifices, anyway?
The very word lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten,” which basically means “spring.” Why spring, you ask? Well, because spring is about death and life. Look at the trees and flowers in the season of spring, which have died and are now coming back to life. That’s what Easter is about. The death of Good Friday and the life of Easter Sunday is what we call the Paschal Mystery – the fact that in order to rise, we must first die.
Lent is the Church’s ‘spiritual wake up call’ to us to prepare for Easter and to remind us that we need to die to ourselves. Dying to yourself means dying to your own selfish wants, pleasures, desires, etc., in order to better focus on what God wants for you in your life. Lent is a great time to re-prioritize.
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” – Hebrews 13:16
When we sacrifice anything during Lent, either something we ‘need’ (caffeine), or something we enjoy (candy), it’s the sacrifice that counts. The sacrifice isn’t meant to make us miserable, but rather to help us keep in mind what an incredible sacrifice God made for us on the cross.
Sacrifice without a little discomfort is probably not really a sacrifice.
This blog is an excerpt from Ask the Bible Geek 2.