Words spoken with an air of superiority, paraded like a badge of honour, “I’m giving up chocolate for Lent.” Yet the pat on the tummy reveals a truer motive, “I need to shift these last few pounds.”
The fasting of Lent is simply a second chance for the weak-willed. A re-run for those broken dietary New Year resolutions but with an added sense of solemnity. Is that it?
For many the fast is broken with an over-abundance of the very thing they have been avoiding. Apart from proving I have the self-control to restrict one or two luxuries in my life is there any point to observing Lent?
For centuries the Christian church has observed a focused time of self-denial, repentance and doing good to others in the weeks before Easter. But to what end?
Contemporary culture is self-obsessed; self-improvement is honoured, independence is the ultimate. Celebrity status is awarded to those who’ve “made it”, their income or dress-size are the ones to which we aspire.
Based on the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness in prayer and fasting, Lent provides us with a time to reset our priorities. A little pain and a little discomfort, a little self-denial and confrontation with our own failure. It reminds us of our Saviour’s love in denying himself for our salvation.
The gospel writer says that after his 40 days, “Jesus returned… in the power of the Spirit”. He was ready to engage with the mess of the world. Lent provides us not with a time to ignore the failings we see, but it invites us to see them more clearly.
Whatever we deny ourselves during this fast, it does not make us better people. But, as an act of devotion focused on one thing, logically it follows less time is spent on other things. And that one “thing”? The point of Lent really is about getting to know Jesus Christ better.
The fasting of Lent is not indefinite – no, it comes to a climax of celebration. The joy of Easter is so much sweeter after the denial of Lent. The feast more satiating after the fast.