The True Purpose Of Lent

26 Feb

“Although Lent is often the excuse people use to test drive a new diet or make good on their New Year’s resolution, that is not its purpose. Lent is a time when we prepare for Holy Week by meditating on our fragility before God and our desperate need for a Savior.”  ~ Sharon Hodde Miller

Loopholes.  Our frail human nature always seems to look for loopholes.  We’ll do what is expected of us but we will try to find a million ways legitimately to cut corners.  We, as faithful Catholics, are no different.

Every Lent, I am besieged with loophole questions:  “Father, they say that Sundays are not really a part of Lent.  I can have what I give up for Lent as long as I do it on Sunday, right?”  “Father, St. Patrick’s Day falls on Friday, can I eat meat when I go to a St. Patrick’s Day party?”  “Father, I’m over the age of the requirement to fast so it’s all right if I ignore that regulation, right?”

I always explain the same things to the people who ask those — and similar — questions.  Yes, Sundays are not “technically” Lent since they are special celebrations in and of their own right.  Mini-Easters, you might call them.  However, if someone truly is trying to embrace the spirit of the law, it would be good to embrace their sacrifices, even on Sunday.  Fridays of Lent are Days of Abstinence.  St. Patrick would probably be abhorred to think about his faithful partying in Lent.  No, we are not obliged to fast if we are over age but we should want to fast anyway — again, because of the spirit of the law — unless we cannot do so due to physical health.

A lot of it comes down to perspective.  Is Lent merely something “we have to do” or do we see it as a necessity because we are sinners and are in need of God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness.  Some, driven by a penitential heart, we will do all that we can to embrace the season.  Others, driven by “Catholic guilt”, we will observe the bare minimum of the season.  We might not like to hear that but that’s the way it is for way too many people.

On what side of the fence do you fall?  Are you a bare-minimum type or do you recognize the need to repent and ask for forgiveness?  Your perspective will determine just how much or how little you embrace this very holy season.

FAITH ACTION:  Acknowledge your need for repentance and make sure that your Lenten resolutions are sincere and that they are designed to draw you closer to our merciful God.