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For many good Protestants, especially Baptists, the season of Lent doesn’t get any closer to the doors of their churches than drinking or gambling do. They see it as a Catholic thing, an odd tradition established by a religious institution that is outdated.
But if people took the time to research it and were even bold enough to try it, they would see that Lent is not a stale practice but is a time for refreshment of faith.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, and many get a cross marked with ashes on their forehead that they wear throughout the day as a reminder that from dust you came and to dust you shall return.
For the next 40 days, something that is common in a person’s life is sacrificed as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. On Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and every Friday during Lent, church officials encourage participants to abstain from meat, except fish. Lent is wrapped up on Easter with the joyful celebration of Christ’s resurrection — the foundation for the Christian faith.
Lent is to Easter as Advent is to Christmas. It’s intended to be a time to prepare for a celebration and remembrance of the basis of the Christian faith. It’s also a time to seek God and focus on praying and serving others.
The idea is to look beyond ourselves and focus on what God has called his people to do and how we are to respond to that calling.
Instead of rushing into Easter and spending only a few brief moments reflecting on the sacrifice of Christ, believers should consider participating in Lent and remembering daily that sacrifice as they themselves are sacrificing something from their lives.
Whatever it is that the believer chooses to sacrifice for the duration of Lent could vary from physical to spiritual things. Some choose not to give something up but instead set a goal to read a book of the Bible every day or pray the rosary every night.
If people choose to give up something tangible, such as soda or sweets, their bodies will physically yearn for those things that they are used to. The physical yearning of our bodies should reflect the spiritual yearning of our hearts for Christ.
In Pope Benedict XVI’s message on Lent this year, he emphasized that “this journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.” Taking the time to remember the basis of the Christian faith will do believers good.
In this fast-paced world, it’s too easy to rush into the sacred Easter celebration without taking the time to focus and dwell on what the celebration is about. If the purpose behind Lent is to prepare for Easter and to renew our faith and focus, it should be a season to look forward to with great anticipation, not to be reflected on just one Sunday.
It’s supposed to be a time when Christians are united in sacrifice, in prayer and in service to others. Lent shouldn’t be something that Protestants look past, but a season they embrace and participate fully in, understanding that the practices are to remind us daily of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
One Catholic leader and Bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, The Most Reverend Bishop Richard Sitka, posted in a blog on his website, “Easter without Lent, is like a wedding without a courtship, the New Testament without the Old, a World Series without the playoffs.”
Lent should be an integral part of the Christian life, not just for Catholics but for all Protestants as well.