The Lenten Season is once again here in our midst ushered in by the imposition of ashes today. I don't know many people who look forward to Lent maybe except for those planning to take a long vacation on Holy Week and it's sad because Lent is a special season of grace. It is an invitation for all of us to take a good hard look on ourselves and examine our spiritual life which is not easy because we are confronted with the idea of giving up something. In short, Lent is a great opportunity for self-renewal, conversion, and deepening of one's faith. But how many Catholics nowadays take Lent seriously?
Take fasting and abstinence for example. Ash Wednesday like Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. Catholics aged more than 14 are required to abstain from meat and those aged 18 to 59, (excluding the sick, infirm, pregnant/nursing mothers) are required to abstain and fast (that is, eat only one full meal and very little in between). But look around and you'll see fastfood stores and meat vendors in the market and grocery stores selling meat on that day. There was a time not long ago when Fridays especially Fridays of Lent were days of abstinence. I still vividly remember this when I was a kid because calendars back then had fish on Fridays stamped in red. Now, the days of abstinence and fasting are only imposed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
But on a deeper level, fasting and abstinence is much more than food deprivation. Fr. Lawrence Mick, writing for the American Catholic newsletter, comments:
"It is often an aid to prayer, as the pangs of hunger reminds us of our hunger for God. But fasting without changing our behavior is not pleasing to God...fasting should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures, those who are in need for any reason. Fasting can help us realize the suffering that so many people in our world experience every day, and it should lead us to greater efforts to alleviate their suffering."
Lent is also a special time of prayer and performing good works, which hopefully we still do even after Lent is over. Let us take advantage of this season to also examine ourselves and our relationship with God and with one another, scrutinize our areas of weaknesses, and resolve to lead a more Christian way of life. If we cannot find time to do these things during Lent, I assure you we won't be able to find time for these at any other time of the year.
Visit also this link to find out how you can better prepare for Lent.
Ash Wednesday by the way is not a holy day of obligation, but it would be nice if we can go to Mass on that day as this fulfills the Gospel call to prayer during Lent.
"All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return." - Ecclesiastes 3:20