Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent: Bargaining time with God?

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and our Ohana went to Mass as you can see above. I just loved the homily Father Matthew gave, so I wanted to post and share about it.

Father Matthew talked about how he perceived Lent as a kid which is also how some misinformed Catholics and non-Catholics may perceive it. He said when he was younger he thought Lent was a time that called us to bargain with God, to do good self-righteous deeds to get on God's good list. He also thought that the more pain and suffering (for example like kneeling on rocks for hours) your acts brought the better. Then as he got older and studied the Scriptures he realized his view of Lent was completely wrong. First and most important, there is never enough good self-righteous deeds we could do to earn Salvation from God because we are sinners and we will all continue to sin. Amen Father Matthew. Only His perfect and holy Son could, and He died for our sins. By Grace Alone are we saved. So why the reason for Lent? Why the ashes? Why the fasting? Why do Catholic, Episcopal, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran Christians observe Lent?

In Old Testament times people used ashes as a sign of repentance. They did this as an outward sign of their inward posture of repentance. Check out Daniel 9:3-6, for an example "So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes...". Ash Wednesday begins Lent, a time when we stop and assess how we’re doing in our walk with God. We should try to assess our walk daily throughout the year. Once Lent is over we strive to continue with our repentance. Lent helps us identify spiritual areas in which we can grow and sinful areas that we need to avoid. To repent, put simply, means to turn away from sin and turn toward God. We use ashes as an outward expression of our need to begin again.

Lent is not one of those things we have to do its something we want to do. Father Matthew said last night we should embrace our sufferings with enthusiasm as they bring us closer to God. It's like an athlete training for a goal, they may suffer through all their practicing but the results bring them to their goal. What I am giving up, or fasting from, are behaviors or attitudes that keep me from getting as close to God as He wants me to be. They're different for everyone and it's meant to be a time of renewal, and making new and better habits that won't just be for Lent but for throughout the whole year.

I want to share my post about my fasting during Lent last year...
"46 days if you count Sundays...

...which I did this Lent when I fasted from all beverages except for water. I thought I'd write a blog post of what I learned from this fast. "Fasting brings us to the realization that we depend on God to sustain us through all things, and that even when our own will fails, God's grace is sufficient in satisfying our hunger." I find much truth to this quote. It wasn't easy for me to only drink water, especially in the beginning of this fast. But when I thought I didn't have the will power, when my stomach turned from drinking water in the early mornings, I focused my attention on my dependence to God and fostering gratitude. I know that many people fast to "get something out of it" (like growing closer to God), but I learned that actually I should focus on what I need to respond to: awareness of sin, repentance, and bringing my body in line with what was happening spiritually. In responding, I did get something out of it. God is awesome.

"When I fast and I share in that fast with others for others, it is in that moment of giving up that I feel equal with all, especially the least among us." I could relate to this quote during my fast as well. I mean think about it - do you think the homeless and the poor are distracted in their thoughts of the planning and prepping of food? or the sensory pleasure of food? Instead of these distractions I bet more of their thoughts lead to praying and talking to God.

Jesus taught His disciples that prayer and fasting is powerful in casting out demons when He said, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting." Mark 9:29.

I'm glad I did this fast this Lent. I learned a lot, I prayed a lot and I listened a lot. And I recommend doing a physical fast to bring your body in line with what is happening spiritually."

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