Wednesday, March 3, 2021


“Oh, my people, dress yourselves in burlap and sit among the ashes. Mourn and weep bitterly, as for the loss of an only son. For suddenly the destroying armies will be upon you” (Jeremiah 6:26)! “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes” (Daniel 9:3).

Why these verses? Well, a couple of weeks ago, back on February 17, the season of Lent began. Lent is a period of fasting, moderation, and self-denial traditionally observed by Roman Catholics as well as some Protestant denominations. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. During Lent, participants may eat sparingly or give up a certain food (like sweets or alcohol) or a habit (like smoking or watching television). In lieu of sprinkling ashes on our heads, these are ways in which we can display our mourning, or repentance, over our sin.   

The Bible never mentions Ash Wednesday. Actually, it never mentions Lent either. Lent is a human invention of the Catholic church, but any Christian is certainly welcome to participate. I did a “Daniel Fast” a few years ago. The so-called “Daniel Fast” is based on Daniel 1 and Daniel 10. When Daniel, and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah (otherwise known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were taken into king Nebuchadnezzar’s service, they were to be given food and wine from the king’s table while undergoing a three-year training program. “But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods” (Daniel 1:8). Babylonian food was surely not kosher. The official in charge of the training program was worried Daniel, and his friends would not be healthy enough to serve the king eating only those foods, and he was one who would ultimately pay for it. Daniel asked for a test. Could they eat only vegetables and drink water for ten days, and then evaluate how they were doing? The chief of staff agreed. At the end of the ten days, Daniel, and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than everyone else. As a result, they were allowed to continue eating as they wished. A modern-day Daniel Fast is a diet limited to vegetables, water, and any other foods that may have been available at the time. This means no artificial anything. By the way, there was no such thing as coffee in 7th century BC either! It was not easy to do.

Like Jeremiah, Daniel, and Mordecai (in the book of Ruth), Catholics decided to start observing a Lenten season to remind themselves of the value of repentance. As humans are want to do, however, over time, Lenten observances developed into more than they should have. Some people began to believe giving something up for Lent was a way to attain God’s blessing. That is not true or biblical. Yes, fasting can be a good thing, and God is certainly pleased when we repent of sins. There is also absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside some time to focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, there are no brownie points to accrue. 

As a Christian, if you choose to observe Lent, feel free to do so. Remember, though, to focus on repenting of sin and consecrating oneself to God. Not on depriving yourself of chocolate thinking that you are earning some brownie points from the Lord. The truth is, God’s love for us could not be any greater than it already is, chocolate or no chocolate. Besides, Jesus said, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Matthew 3:8). That means, repenting of our sin is something we should do every day, not just during Lent.                                         


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