“Thou art dust. And to dust thou shalt return.” -Genesis 3:19
Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent. This period of spiritual growth and renewal lasts approximately six weeks until the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. During this Lenten season people are able to reflect on their spiritual lives and offer up prayer, penance, repentance, and almsgiving. Traditionally people fast, give something up or make some sort of sacrifice in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert.
Growing up my siblings and I always dreaded the time when we had to do without something, especially if it meant giving up candy when Valentine’s Day fell during Lent. I remember a specific year when I gave up watching TV and playing games on the computer. Today this could probably be compared to a 40 day social media cleanse (which I considered doing this Lent, but thought my commentary and blogging grade might suffer). It wasn’t too bad, I found other things to occupy my time. Things like playing outside, reading books, helping my mom in the kitchen, etc. It became a real sacrifice though when my family would sit down to watch something and I had to leave the room, being the only one left out.
What I realized when I got a little older was that it’s supposed to a sacrifice, but merely going without something is not the purpose. The purpose is to bring you closer to God. It’s supposed to help you eliminate being too busy to pray, too tired to attend church on Sunday, and too consumed with your own life that you don’t pay attention to what is going on in the lives of others. It’s supposed to help you recenter your life around what’s important and get rid of all the things that are distracting you.
Many ask why Catholic don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Mark Hart gave a few reasons in his blog post “Why do Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays“
- Some say the Church was trying to support the fishing industry when times were tough.
- There was a time period when fish was safer to eat than beef.
- “Only the very wealthy could afford meat. Fish (in comparison) was the poor man’s meal. It was cheap, humble food that you had to catch yourself.”
- “Some say that not eating meat helped folks to focus on the humility of Christ, who lived a simple man’s life.”
He also said:
“If we aren’t focusing on Jesus and on the cross when we abstain from the meat, then the matter can become less about Lent and more about” what we should have for lunch.
“Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Savior, gave up His own body, His own flesh, that Friday so many years ago, for me and for you. He went through the pain of that self-sacrifice, completely mindful of God the Father. When I go through the incredibly minor act of abstaining from meat on Fridays, it is just one tiny act of self-sacrifice that points me back to that awful but Good Friday. That was the Friday when God loved me so much that He gave up His flesh in the most selfless act in history.”
“When we abstain from meat, we focus on Christ and on our souls, rather than on self and on our bodies. It is faith in action, placing our attention on Jesus and offering Him “our flesh” as a sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), a vessel through which He can and does work.”