Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent: Missing the Point

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.

5 comments:

Lisa said...

How simply perfect. I think that she is 100% right.

mapsgirl said...

I am Christian (not Catholic) and have never given anything up for Lent. But I understand the idea. And I think that Grandma's response is excellent.

Cyndy said...

Interesting thoughts, Laura.

I was raised Catholic, and we always gave something up (usually sweets, chocolate). So many times it just seemed liked going through the motions. I think, as your Grandmother saw it, that I did not give up enough, so I did not feel it.

Then I heard the words of a pastor from my husband's church. He challenged us to do something good, something new during the Lenten season. This was such an epiphany for me. I was truly stunned. You mean do something positive? Be better, be nicer? That certainly made sense to me and has been my practice ever since (and you know what ~ it is harder ~ so maybe closer to God!).

This year I decided upon something different. I have been working on a photo-a-day project. From March 1 thru Easter I am going to work with black and white photos only. But I am not giving up color. I am hoping to see the world a little differently, to appreciate the light, the textures, the simpleness that surrounds me. I won't know until I'm doing it whether it will be worthy of your Grandmother's thoughts, but I will keep those words of wisdom in mind...

Cyndy said...

P.S. Thank you for sharing your lovely story...

Karen said...

They totally missed the point of Lent. The sacrafice is something that you would find so hard to live without. Jesus sacraficed his life for us. Would we do the same? Nope...so what would each of us do without in order to bring us closer to God? I think that is the question these girls should have been asking.