I know the title alone is going to ruffle some feathers, but it’s true. I’ve never understood the purpose of Lent. I was taught that it is a period of preparation prior to Easter for fasting, penance and contemplation. This practice is supposed to purify the body, mind and soul in order to be worthy to bask in the glory of Jesus’ resurrection. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies and pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).” (CCC 1438)
My core issue lies in the fact that this practice is “scheduled” for the 40 days prior to Easter (oh, and Friday too if you know your catechism). What about the other 325 other days of the year? We can casually participate in “almsgiving and fraternal sharing” when it suits our needs? We don’t have to spend time practicing “spiritual exercises and penitential liturgies?” If we are truly trying to live a Christ-like life, shouldn’t we be doing these things all year long? How does giving up sugar, caffeine, alcohol, or pizza for that matter bring you any closer to purification and understanding Christ’s passion? Donating to charities and doing good works during Lent might make you feel better about yourself, but is that what Jesus was trying to teach us when He said “Love your neighbor as yourself?” I don’t believe so.
I believe that the liturgical calendar creates a congregation of occasional do-gooders who feel that they are good Christians because they participate (fully or half-hearted) in the season at hand and conveniently opt out when no one is watching. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of churches full of people who robotically participate without any true integration of mind, body and soul.
So, now that I’ve stepped down off of my soap box, perhaps during this Lenten season you try to create, or, better yet, sustain, a spiritual practice that carries out Jesus’ one commandment. This takes commitment….not just 40 days. Believe me, it’s not easy and it shouldn’t be…that’s what makes it a true sacrifice. Try it…your soul will thank you.