Is Lent a Catholic Thing
Is Lent a Catholic Thing
This question/thought has come my way a number of times this year from people inside and outside our church. I thought I would use this newsletter to cover it. Lent was not something started by Jesus and the Apostles. It was a season started perhaps in the 3rd or 4th century, but it has become the practice of most of the Christians throughout the world. Orthodox, Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, some Congregationalists, some Presbyterians, and some Lutherans practice Lent. The reason we practice Lent is to draw closer to the very Savior we profess. There are even Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches that practice Lent but do so without calling it Lent. Lent is a season for Jesus!
Although the word “Lent” cannot be found in the Bible, the themes and focus of Lent are totally Biblical. Ashes relate to the sackcloth and ashes that were used in seasons of Israel’s repentance. Moreover, the theme of coming from dust and returning to dust is the reminder of our mortality in this life. Lent is a season of repentance. Jesus begins his ministry with the words “The Kingdom of God has come, repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15)! All Christians can use a season of focusing on repentance and going to God to help through their sins. Just think of all the different Prophets that God sent to Israel through the generations to call them to repentance. Lent is a prophetic season!
Then there is fasting. Chapter 4 of Matthew tells us how Jesus fasted 40 days and was tempted by Satan. Now, we certainly do not want to reenact being tempted by Satan, but the season of Lent uses the number of 40 (as there are many 40’s in the Bible) as a designated and focused time of the year to remember the path to the cross that Jesus took. Our Scripture readings will reflect that every Sunday this Lent. Since the suffering of Jesus is such a large theme of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John it is clear that we are being Biblical by living out the Lent season’s focus. Lent is a season for focus on Scripture!
I recently read an article by someone who really misunderstood Lent. They spent paragraphs trying to tell how Protestantism is selling out to the “wickedness” of Catholicism by participating in Lent. This individual was seriously confused. Lent is not the domain of any one denomination. Rather, the season offers all Christians a time of reflection. Are we really living the Christian life? Do we need to get some sins out of our lives? Moreover, it offers us the solution; Christian living through the death and subsequent resurrection of our Lord. Lent is not wicked!
I think the final point to make is that if Christians do not have a designated season for fasting (or designated days in their devotional lives) will they fast at all? Good intentions are many, but intentions often fall at the feet of our own patterns of leisure. Lent offers us as a congregation a challenge to live like Christ. Without some pattern to our Christian life we are tossed back and forth by ‘good ideas’ that have limited lasting impact. The real challenge is getting the right patterns. Lent is a good pattern!
Lent is about relationship with God. May we all participate with gladness as we become holy!
-Pastor Isaac Fleming