Lead Me to the Cross

“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.”

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4 thoughts on “Lead Me to the Cross

  1. What a beautiful commentary.

    I’ve also given lots of thought as to how to best observe Lent. It has always bothered me that the fast food places start selling fish sandwiches during Lent to guarantee they won’t lose business during this time of the year. Among them is Culver’s which always sells walleye at some point during the spring, though I’m not sure it’s directly connected to Lent. My problem here is that the Culver walleye sandwich is one of my great guilty pleasures. Given that it is deep fried and a top level underwater predator, there is no sanctity to be found in eating this delicious treat.

    So this year I made sure I got in for my sandwich before Lent began.

    But I suspect that I will not give up walleye for Lent…

  2. Interesting blog post. I really liked this quote…

    “If we aren’t focusing on Jesus and on the cross when we abstain from the meat, then the matter can become l
    less about Lent and more about” what we should have for lunch.

    It is so true. Not very often do I follow the rules of lent, but if I did, I would totally agree that this is true. Not eating meat reminds us why we chose not to eat meat in the first place every time you crave it.

    I also agree with what Dr. Hanson said about fast foods places serving fish during lent. I find it funny that they never say why they are all the sudden serving fish for a limited time only. It just simply goes off the menu as soon as lent is over. I suppose they would get in trouble if they said it was because of lent…

  3. This is a lovely blog which conquers an issue which most would shy from. I grew up in a Lutheran church and participated in Lent almost every year. However, as I have now become a born again Christian, I realize that I never truly understood why I was sacrificing those foods, activities, etc… I now remember the church pastor’s son stating that he was going to give up sexual intimacy for Lent. How disturbing this is to me now! Lent serves such a great purpose in giving people an opportunity to really reflect on what Christ did for us (even though we should be reflecting on this every day). I think many people, just like the younger me, fail to understand the purpose of Lent. It is sickening to hear stories of people going crazy and partying on the eve before Lent begins because they have to be “good” for forty days. This type of behavior completely destroys what Lent is all about and is not at all honoring to God. Great blog!

  4. I don’t know how restaurants would “get in trouble” for saying they are serving fish for lent. In fact, restaurants used to advertise lenten specials of fish on Friday. But everyone who cares about meatless Friday knows why the restaurants do this, and those who don’t care probably …. don’t care.

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