By: Melissa Freund
Beginning with Ash Wednesday, the 40 days prior to Easter Sunday, which represent the period of time that Jesus spent in the desert prior to his crucifixion, are known as Lent.
For many who follow the Catholic faith, Lent is known as a time when you are to give up something; often, especially for younger children, this takes the form of candy, junk food or soda. However, in recent years, it seems as though a large proportion of church-goers have forgotten the symbolic meaning behind these sacrifices.
Rather than focusing on becoming closer to Christ through this self-discipline, many people have come to look at Lent as a second chance at a New Year’s resolution. If you have lost track of your resolution and still have those five pounds to lose, maybe giving up junk food during Lent will help you to reach your goal.
During his Ash Wednesday homily, Pope Francis noted that prayer, fasting and charity are the pillars of the Lenten tradition. However, while getting rid of those last few pounds might be a positive side-effect of a Lenten fast, that should not be the purpose of the sacrifice.
According to the Catholic Online website, the tradition of fasting during Lent was implemented in order to remind the church community how blessed they are, and to bring them closer to those who are forced to continually fast due to poverty. This behavior was intended to remind Catholics of the constant suffering throughout the world so they might do more to alleviate it.
Clearly, abstaining from potato chips in order to improve one’s physical appearance will not achieve the goals of Lent. This self-discipline is unlikely to bring an individual closer to God or to help him realize the sufferings of those in poverty.
As Pope Francis stated in his homily, “All three [prayer, fasting and charity] share the need to not let appearances take over. Looks don’t matter. The value of life does not depend on the approval of others, or on success, but of what we have inside.”