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Lent is More Than Fish Sticks

When you think of Lent, most people think of fish sandwiches or fish sticks.  What is Lent anyway?  We are preparing for Easter, and not just for the candy or bunnies.  We are preparing for Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection.  This is the most important religious time of the year.

Lent starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter.  After Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was killed, Jesus went into the desert for 40 days before He was crucified.  He fasted for those 40 days.  Satan confronted and tempted Jesus and tried to prevent Him from being crucified because He didn’t want Jesus to succeed in His sacrifice for our salvation.  We as Christians go symbolically into the desert with Jesus for those 40 days (estimated) and try to better our relationship with Jesus.  This is a time to purify our religious lives.

During this time, we do different devotions to help us.  One thing we do is fast.  Fasting is only eating the equivalent of one meal in a day.  Abstaining from meat is also done.  All meat is refrained from except fish.  (This is where the fish sticks come in.)  Fish is the symbol of Jesus sometimes.  These are done on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays in between.  These are sacrifices we do for Jesus in reparation for our sins.  We also usually give up something during Lent as a sacrifice such as sweets, chocolate, smoking or something.

On Good Friday, we have Mass to remind us of Jesus’ Passion or His crucifixion and suffering.  This is a very important day and the time of 3:00pm is also very important because that’s when Jesus died.  This Mass is very emotionally moving because we read the Scripture of Jesus’ suffering.  I cry every time thinking of His pain because of my sins but it also makes me want to be a better person for Jesus.

The evening before Easter, we have a very beautiful Mass called the Easter Vigil.  We light candles and read many Scriptures of the Apostles waiting for Jesus to rise from the dead.  This is the night usually when people who are new converts come into the Church after going to the RCIA classes.  They receive the sacraments they need to come into the fullness of the Faith.

During Lent, Catholics can strengthen their faith by praying the rosary, praying the stations of the cross, reading scripture or other religious devotions daily.  There are also more opportunities for us to go to Confession/Reconciliation to repent and leave sin behind.

If a person takes Lent seriously, this can be a life changing experience.  You might end up with a closer relationship with Jesus after those 40 days in the desert.  Satan tempts us into thinking we can’t change but if we persevere, we can resist that temptation and change our lives for the better.  It may sound like it’s not much fun but you can make it fun and an interesting experience if you try different things and learn more about Jesus.

So when you see all of those advertisements for fish sandwiches at fast food restaurants on TV, remember that Lent is more than fish sticks.  It’s about the love Jesus has for us that He suffered for 40 days and then suffered and died for us so that we could have a repaired relationship with God after it was broken by Adam and Eve.

 

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What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent (a preparation for Easter), 46 days before Easter.  It is celebrated by going to Mass and receiving ashes on the forehead in the shape of a cross to remind us that “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).  The ashes are burned blessed palms and are blessed.  The palms are from the previous Palm Sunday.  It is also a day of fasting and abstaining.  Fasting means that you only eat the equivalent of one meal for the whole day.  Abstaining means that you don’t eat meat.  These are done to sacrifice for what Jesus endured on Good Friday for us.

The ashes are to remind us of our death that we don’t know when it will come and to repent of our sins now so that we are prepared for it.  The way to prepare for is to follow God’s rules and ways.  “Ashes are a plea to God for mercy and compassion, pardon and forgiveness.” (http://thecatholicspirit.com/holy-days/lent/why-do-we-receive-ashes-on-ash-wednesday-2/)  The most important meaning of the ashes is our promise to reform our lives and to avoid sins and the temptations of sin.

This year (2017), Ash Wednesday is on March 1st.  If a non-Catholic visits the Catholic Church for this Mass, they are invited to go forward and receive the ashes on their forehead, if they wish.  The fun part is if you have a priest with a large thumb, you will get a very large cross on your forehead!

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Photo credit: Parish of the Holy Eucharist