Archive for Saturday, March 4, 2006

Why do some Christians give up things for Lent?

March 4, 2006


Season a reminder of Christ's sacrifice

The Rev. Jonathon Jensen, rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.:

Lent is a season of preparation for Christ's passion on the cross and for the resurrection celebrated at Easter. The early Christians observed this season of 40 days plus Sundays with a time of penitence and fasting. The 40 days are a reminder of Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness in preparation for his public ministry.

Lent is the most introspective of the church seasons, and in modern times the foci are on self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting and self-denial; and meditation on the Holy Scriptures. All of these devotional practices, including giving up something, are to help up prepare for Easter.

The practice of fasting or self-denial often receives the most attention. To better prepare, we abstain from something: Alcohol, meat or chocolate are simple pleasures that many people often give up as a Lenten discipline. Giving up peas for me would be no sacrifice; I hate peas. The sacrifice should be something that produces a noticeable absence.

The theological basis for this is simple: Every time we want what we have given up, we are reminded of what Christ gave up for us. Christ gave his life. While our sacrifice pales in comparison, it serves as a frequent reminder of God's overwhelming and complete love for each of us in our season of preparation for the resurrection.

- Send e-mail to Jonathon Jensen at

Objects distract from relationship with God

The Rev. John Schmeidler, pastor, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky.:

Often we fill our lives with many things that blind us to the presence of God. Attachment to certain attitudes, thoughts, behaviors and material things overshadow our hearts, preventing us from experiencing the mercy and love of God shining upon us.

Lent is a time set aside by the church to reflect upon how our attachments distract us from our relationship with God. Lent challenges us to give up these attachments so that we might live in freedom.

Many people view Lent as a test of endurance: "I am going to make it through Lent without drinking soda or watching television." The purpose of giving up a particular food or activity is not to prove how strong we are, but to practice self-discipline.

The practice of self-discipline challenges us to choose where we spend our time, energy and even where we spend our thoughts. Lent is about choosing to direct our time, energy and thought toward God, that we might discover the true freedom God wants for us. Lent is about making space so that we may embrace more fully the mercy and love of God.

During this sacred season of Lent, we are invited to give up our attachments so that we might live in the freedom of God's love. May the mercy and grace of God flow through you this Lent.

- Send e-mail to John Schmeidler at


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