Today, someone on a forum I frequent was asking about Lent and "giving things up" for 4o days as a tradition of Lent. This has long been a subject that is near to my heart, as I have thought of it a lot and had a fair number of encounters surrounding the sacrifices requested by the Catholic church during Lent. Even recently, I have noticed a number of people who are giving up electronic habits for Lent. And I find myself wondering if they are missing the point.
My response to that post sits so nicely in my head that I need to put it here too...
Keep in mind that anyone out there can be stupid about any old tradition.
I was Catholic, so I "get" Lent. And I had the same problem as you do, years ago. I was working with a bunch of Catholic girls who were crazy about sticking to every rule that was ever made about Lent. It was nuts. I think they dug a few up from 1242, if you know what I mean. And I would ignore them. Although I understand Lent, I don't do and never have done these things. They'd say stupid things to me like "God will punish you for eating meat on a Tuesday." It was ridiculous, and a little sad on their parts. I would challenge them and tell them I highly doubted that God was interested in my culinary choices of the day.
In the end, this annoyed me so much, that I went to my 80-something year old grandmother. Keep in mind, this is a woman who has a grade 3 education. She was removed from her home in Poland at the age of 14 and sent to a Nazi work camp. And she is a staunch Catholic. So I told her what they were saying, as I was interested in her spin. Frankly, I thought it would be the same as the girls I was working with. Not so...
She said, "No. You fast or give up things for Lent for YOU to feel closer to God. God will not be angry at you. God did not make these rules. But sometimes doing without makes you feel closer to God and understand Jesus more."
I am no longer Catholic. And I have struggled recently with the scattered remains of my faith. But I can understand what she was saying. Her explanation makes sense to me: as a sacrificing of yourself to understand a sacrifice made for you. Even on a small scale.
I'm not sure of much in religion, but I am sure that most Christians who practice a Lenten sacrifice are completely missing the point.