With the imposition of blessed ashes on Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world marked the beginning of Lent this week.
For the next 40 days before Easter, Christian faithful around the world will prepare to commemorate the death and celebrate the Resurrection of Christ through fasting, sacrifice, prayer and almsgiving. Lent’s 40 days reflects the amount of time Jesus spent in the desert, after which he was tempted by Satan. The story appears in the Gospel of Matthew and is known as the Temptation of Christ.
In his first Lenten message as the Catholic pontiff, Pope Francis writes of the connection between loving God and charity.
“God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved,” Francis said. “Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances.”
Traditionally, Lent is also a time when most faithful choose to “give up” a certain pleasure.
In her message to parishioners, the Rev. Rebecca Pritchard, pastor of Shadow Hills Church in Tujunga, writes that giving up something makes no sense if it only leads to misery.
“If abstaining from some soft addiction (Internet, coffee, chocolate, whining), will bring you closer to God, do it!” Pritchard said. “But I am thinking of things like praying, reading the Bible, writing handwritten notes, walking the labyrinth, random acts of kindness, that sort of thing.”
For Sunland resident and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Tujunga member Nancy Shannon, Lent is a more spiritual time than Christmas, she said, as it gives her more time to reflect as she prepares to commemorate Christ’s crucifixion.
As for giving up something for Lent, barring something tangible to sacrifice, Shannon has decided to give up an attitude, such as her habit of heavy cursing which, she admits, has gotten out of hand.
“I look at it this way: God sacrificed his Son for us; I should be able to sacrifice something that doesn’t even come close to that,” said Shannon, a former parishioner at Holy Redeemer and St. James parishes. “[It’s] seriously harder than I thought it would be,” she added.