As I go through my Confirmation class I am learning different ways to learn about my faith. This week in class we learned about Lent and deciding what to give up for Lent. What is this about giving up something for lent and isn’t there something about fasting as well? Let’s take a moment to reflect a little bit about the upcoming Lenten season.
What is Lent? Our catechist shared with us a video that gave a very good explanation behind why we sacrifice things during Lent. So let’s take a couple minutes to watch that.
So what did I learn from this video? One of the things that i really took out of this video is the realization is that fasting allows us to feel our physical hunger, that in turn allows us to bring physical feeling and meaning to the act of fasting and getting us in touch with our spiritual hunger. But what does that mean? Some of the things that we have issues with in our faith is that as man we find it hard to believe and feel something that we often can’t see; fasting allows us to feel our hunger and when we do it for Christ it is as if we can feel our hunger for a relationship with Christ.
Fasting is often seen as “giving up” something, but the greater thing to see it as is preparing one’s self for something greater. So when you look at it this way, we are preparing ourselves for the celebration in which we call Easter. Think of a time where you are going to have an amazing feast, maybe a birthday dinner or Thanksgiving or even something like having your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant. If you know that you will be having that feast, wouldn’t you restrain yourself from snacking and having a meal before you go to that feast? Fasting for Lent is a way to prepare ourselves for the feast to celebrate Christ conquering death and freeing us from our sins.
Ash Wednesday (The Start of Lent)
46 days before Lent is a day called Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is known for it’s Mass in which the ashes of the previous year’s blessed Palm Sunday leaves are used to draw a cross on your forehead. This action acts as a sign of grief that we have sinned therefore divided away from God. It also acts as a reminder that man was created from dust, and we shall one day return to dust.
Ash Wednesday is also a day in which we should be prayerful and also fasting. It is often tradition for one to refrain from eating meat, and have one regular meal while having two smaller meals that would not be a regular meal when combined.
The Lenten season is a time for us to honor the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It was made to be 40 days to symbolize the 40 days in which Jesus fasted in the desert and being tempted by the devil. While Jesus fasted in the desert He was tempted 3 times by the devil and denied him each time. So like Jesus did in the desert we are called to follow in His footsteps and join him in Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.
Lent is a time for us to feel our spiritual hunger for a relationship with Christ. The way that we can do that is by spending more time praying as part of Lent. Think about this:
How hard is it to keep a relationship with a friend if you never talk to each other?
It would be pretty hard right? Prayer is a time in which we develop and grow in our relationship with God. We all have busy lifestyles, I totally understand that. Many people including myself barely find time to put aside to consistently pray. But that is something that we must set as a goal to change. Are you up to that challenge?
Start off small, maybe set aside 5 minutes a day to do undisturbed prayer. Find that too easy? Add another 5 minutes. See if you can get to consistent length like you promised to do on our Covenant Cards on our dedication day of when you joined SFC.
Fasting seems like such a general term, but lets give that word a little bit more of a meaning in the context of Lent. Much like I shared at the start of the post, fasting is a way for us to make a physical connection to our spiritual hunger for a relationship with Christ. Fasting is also one of the main things that people often think about when it comes to Lent. Think about it; when Lent comes around the first question likely to pop up is “What are you going to give up for Lent this year?”
Lent is often seen and understood as time of rules and restrictions on what we can eat during that time. Let’s try to change that mentality. It was explained to us that Lent should be seen as a way that we can encourage a change in our heart. To encourage this change in heart we fast (delay of gratification) from things that cherish or that we use as barriers between us and God.
When you choose the thing that you will be fasting from, make sure that you choose something that is important to you. It does not take any effort to give up something that you don’t like, for example giving up bittermelon. Here is an infographic to help remember some things about Fasting and Abstinence during the Lenten season. Click on the image for the full size version.
We are also called to Almsgiving by the church to help those that are less fortunate. Another word for almsgiving is charity. We are called to be humble and help those that are less fortunate. People will often think that this means to give money to the poor, which isn’t incorrect, but rather incomplete. Not only are we called to share with our treasure, but also with our time and talent.
Don’t forget that one of the most precious things that we can do for one another is to share our time and talents with each other and with those in need. If you don’t have the money to share with another that is fine, but are you giving up maybe some of your time serving at a food bank maybe? Don’t forget that there are other things than money that you have to offer.
Think about what you are planning on doing this Lenten season. Are you determined to challenge yourself to grow in your relationship with our loving God? What gratification are you going to withhold from yourself until the celebration of Easter? How long each day are you going to spend working on your relationship with your God? How are you going to help those in your community. Let us all join together to pray for one another, to help those less fortunate, and for us to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christ’s conquering of death.
With that, may God be praised. Have a blessed Lent!
[Update] Here is another infographic that has been shared with me!