Feb. 25, 2020 What is the meaning of Lent? - Father' Michael's Words to Live By
"Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments” (Joel 2:12-14).
Lent is a period of fasting, moderation, and self-denial traditionally observed by Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and some Protestant denominations. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday.
The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 46 days (40 days, not counting Sundays). During Lent, participants eat sparingly or give up a particular food or habit. It’s not uncommon for people to give up something special during Lent, or to swear off watching television or eating chocolate. It’s six weeks of self-discipline.
Lent began as a way for Christians to remind themselves of the value of repentance. The austerity of the Lenten season was seen as similar to how people in the Old Testament fasted and repented in sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3).
However, over the centuries Lenten observances have developed a much more "sacramental" value. Many believe that giving something up for Lent is a way to attain God’s blessing. But the Bible teaches that grace cannot be earned; grace is “the gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17).
Also, Jesus taught that fasting should be done discreetly: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus’ command to “wash your face” seems to conflict with the practice of rubbing ashes on one’s face on Ash Wednesday.
There is no doubt that God is pleased when we repent of sinful habits. However, repenting of sin is something we should be doing every day of the year, not just for the 46 days of Lent.
The key for all Christians is to focus on repenting of sin and consecrating oneself to God. Lent should not be a time of boasting of one’s sacrifice or trying to earn God's favor or increasing His love. God’s love for us could not be any greater than it already is.
Blessings in this Lenten Season,