Forty days of fasting is significant to Christians. After receiving the ten commandments, Moses stayed on the mountain with God for forty days and nights without food or drink. Elijah walked forty days and nights to the mountain of the Lord. And most importantly, Jesus spent forty days and nights in prayer and fasting before beginning his public ministry.
From earliest times, preparing for Easter was practiced in the church. By the time Christianity was legalized in 313 A.D., Lenten practices were well established. Fasting consisted of eating one meal with a few snacks to keep up one’s strength for physical labor. As it is today, abstaining from meat was required on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent.
The purpose of Lent is to prepare for Easter. This involves renewing baptismal vows and repenting of and turning away from sin–in other words, getting right with God. While Lent is largely a Catholic practice, I know many protestants who are recognizing the forty days of Lent as a way to make changes in their lives. Making sacrifices such as giving up something for Lent and helping those in need are also aspects of Lent.
If you try to count the forty days of Lent on a calendar beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Good Friday, you will see that it is more than forty days. That is because Sundays are not included in the forty days. Sundays are considered not to be a part of the Lenten responsibilities. When he was a boy, my husband, whose birthday is March 30, would have to celebrate on Sunday when his birthday fell during Lent. This practice is not done so much today, and those who have given up something for Lent usually continue to abstain even on Sundays.
For me, Lent is an opportunity to deepen my relationship with my savior. This year, I have chosen to read, Rediscover Jesus, an invitation, by Matthew Kelly. I received the book as a Christmas gift from my pastor. The prologue begins with these words: “OUR GOD IS A GOD OF SURPRISES.” Then it recounts the story of a man named Paul who is trying to get a taxi because he is rushing to catch a plane. In the process of getting the cab, he knocks over a small produce stand belonging to a blind woman. As his friends urge him to get in the taxi, Paul returns to help the woman reset her produce stand. When he is finished, the woman asks Paul a question. She asks him, “Are you Jesus?” When Paul asks her why she thinks he is Jesus, she tells him that when her stand crashed she asked Jesus to help her. Later, Paul asks himself a question, “When was the last time someone confused you for Jesus?”
Coincidentally, the book has forty chapters–one for each day of Lent. The chapters are only a page or two followed by a “Point to Ponder,” “Verse to Live,” Question to consider,” and “Prayer.” In addition, I have signed up to receive daily emails that will help me have the BEST LENT EVER. If this sounds like something you need in your life, you can join me on this journey. Visit DynamicCatholic.com/BestLentEver to receive a free copy of the book and to register for emails.
Don’t just give up chocolate–Make this Lent count. It will change your life.