By Michael J. ARVIZU
For Christians around the world, Ash Wednesday is traditionally known as the beginning of Lent. The 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week are some of the most sacred for Christians. In the fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, 40 days is the amount of time Jesus spent alone in the desert fasting and being tempted by Satan.
As Lent begins, faithful are traditionally called upon to commemorate Jesus’ time in the desert and walk in his footsteps. Since most people cannot literally spend 40 days in a desert, most make changes to their everyday lives. Some people promise to pray or attend Mass more often. Others fast or set aside additional time to read the scriptures. And, of course, they give up something.
St. Luke’s of the Mountains in La Crescenta parishioner Dolores Arellano, who grew up Roman Catholic, believes giving up something during Lent makes sense only if doing so brings one closer to God.
“God wants you to be more spiritual in yourself, not in other people,” she said, while preparing the parish hall for St. Luke’s weekly post-Sunday service lunch. “I think we have to be more spiritual with God than other times and be closer to him.”
This Lenten season marks the first year St. Luke’s parishioners have volunteered to serve meals at the Friends in Deed House homeless shelter in Pasadena, which also houses a women’s shelter and food pantry. About 25 parishioners visited the shelter for the first time in January, where they served approximately 200 people trying to escape from a bitterly cold night.
“People had a really profound experience,” said St. Luke’s Vicar Rev. Bryan Jones. “It was very satisfying. The group that went also grew closer together.”
Helping others, said St. Luke’s parishioner Larry Stammer, is one example of how the faithful can walk in Jesus’ footsteps during Lent.
“You look at the faces of these people, and our job is to see Christ in those faces,” Stammer said. “That’s a way of becoming closer to God. ‘Forty’ in the Bible is a number used to denote challenge, or to be challenged.”
People should get out of their comfort zone, do something that they wouldn’t normally do, and imitate Christ, Stammer said.
“Christ was close to God. How was he close to God? He reached out to other people, healed the sick, and visited the poor,” Stammer said.