Why do Catholic’s celebrate Lent? For us Easter is the greatest Holy Day in our calendar. It is the day that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and the gates of Heaven were re-opened. So we spend the 40 days before hand preparing for this celebration. 40 days and 40 nights are referenced in Mathew chapter 4. Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.
But there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Christ was resurrected on Sunday and therefore the disciples saw Sunday as a day of celebration. Thus, we do not fast on Sundays but celebrate his resurrection.
It starts with Ash Wednesday. The palms from prior Palm Sundays are burned and distributed on this day. They remind us that from dust we were born and to dust we will return. (Genesis 3:19) It also reminds us to repent. Jesus gave up his life for us, shouldn’t we strive to be the best Catholic’s we can be?
We receive a small cross of ashes on our head. The ash symbolizes our mortality and sin. The cross represents Jesus’s resurrection and his forgiveness. Pretty powerful huh?
Ash Wed is actually not a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church. Yet, I know for me and so many others we feel it is. If Jesus gave his life for me, I certainly can prepare by attending mass on Ash Wed and receiving ashes. Many churches do offer ashes through the day without necessarily having a mass too. Check your local churches. It is one day a year that you can tell who is Catholic and who is not. It is one day I am proud that everyone who sees me knows my faith.
Why do we fast and abstain from meat today? I am a sinner and I want to show God that I am truly sorry. However, when we fast we are not to show that we are fasting in our behavior or appearance. Fasting can allow us to pray more clearly and can help to draw us closer to God. It is a little sacrifice on our part to bring us closer to God. The church says that you are allowed to eat one meal and two smaller snacks that do not equal the size of a normal meal. I have tried to see how long I can fast before I need anything. I think being in tune to how your body feels and the effects of not eating can be amazing, an eye opener. We abstain from meat in honor of Jesus’s passion on Good Friday.
We offer something up or try to do something good during this time to help us turn away from sin and back towards God. We are faced with so many temptations in our day to day life. This is the perfect time to work on resisting temptation and bringing God back to our number one focus. I try to always give something up that I know I struggle with but also do something that I know helps me grow closer to God. This year my son and I are giving up the use of electronics (unless needed for job, school or communication). I am also going to pray the rosary when I would have been playing a game or something. My prayers offered up during my rosary are going to be for people that I would otherwise not want to pray for. I.e.: Isis, gangs, murderers, abusers…
The true beauty comes when you aren’t doing things because your religion says you should but because you want to. Your love for God and the sacrifice of Jesus pulls you to do it. That is when it becomes truly powerful.
copyright 2015 Sheila M Scarpulla. All rights reserved. No reproduction without written consent