The Real Purpose of Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday. For the next 40+ days, Catholics will embark on a very holy journey called Lent. This is a very beautiful time for growing with God in preparation for the most sacred day on the calendar, Easter.

I have purposely never talked about faith in my blog because I don’t think it is an appropriate medium to do so. However, I want to make one exception for this post just because I feel it is important enough to do so. I am a practicing Roman Catholic raised in a strong Italian Catholic family where the foundation of my faith was set. My parents raised me tremendously and many of my Lenten habits were formulated in my early years growing up in their household.

This post is going to be very brief. I just want to get across what Lent is rather than what many perceive it to be. Lent is not about “giving something up”. It is not some silly New Year’s resolution. Rather, Lent is about prayer, fasting, and alms giving. Of course going without many gratifications is part of the fasting component of Lent but there is so much more. In my opinion, what we decide to do during Lent is much more important than what we decide not to do because after all prayer, fasting, and alms giving are things you do, not things you “give up”.

Non-Catholics and Catholics alike sometimes confuse the purpose of Lent. It is NOT a time to get praise from others for what we do during the 40 days but a time to get closer to God. It is this reason why it is very important to never ask someone what they are doing for Lent or on the other hand to make public what we are doing for Lent. This is made very clear during today’s Ash Wednesday gospel reading (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21). Jesus taught us that hypocrites will let others know that they are fasting, praying, and alms-giving. These people who let up their guard and let others know that they are not eating during a certain day or abstaining from meat or not partaking in a certain activity or practice have totally lost the purpose of doing so. Because they have confided in people and received their praise, they will not receive praise from God. However, those who do deeds in private so that others don’t know will receive praise from God.

But I am not here to give a scripture lesson. Not only am I 100% unqualified to do so, but I have way too many sins to ever attempt to preach the Good Word to anyone. I guess all that I want to do is just get the general message across, a message that everyone can easily understand: Lent is a private time. It is a time to get closer to God while forsaking any opportunity for attention and praise from others. Many, including myself, get very uncomfortable when asked about what we are doing during Lent.

To everyone who observes Lent, have the most blessed season ever. Don’t Blink.