If you’re unfamiliar with the purpose of Lent, here are some basics. Lent is meant to be a time of fasting and introspection. While the fasting usually only occurs on Fridays when participants are forbidden to eat meat, the time for self-analysis is continuous throughout the 40-day stretch. According to the Bible the season represents the period of time Jesus spent fasting in the desert, resisting temptations from the devil before he began his ministry. For practicing Catholics this is a time to make a personal sacrifice, giving up something that they enjoy or something that has become a bad habit in their lives, most commonly in the form of chocolate or alcohol.
Growing up Catholic, Lent was that dreaded time of year when my siblings and I were obligated to make a sacrifice for that month and a half long stretch before Easter, also known as our spring break. Looking back I can’t remember the first year when I was actually able to commit for the full 40 days. From giving up Reese’s and pizza, to cutting back on the 5 hours a day I spent playing Super Mario on my Gameboy, it was always a challenge to stay disciplined about it.As a college student it didn’t get any easier to keep up with the traditions I was raised with. While I still had a desire to maintain my religious beliefs, my schedule made that quite difficult. I found myself skipping church on Sunday’s to attend a different form of church called the library.
With Lent in full swing I had to think a lot about what I could give up this year in an effort to remain a good Catholic. I was always taught to sacrifice something that will not only better your own life, but more importantly improve the lives of others. I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely had others in mind when I thought about my own personal sacrifices. I’ve even used lent as a catalyst for a new diet. I assure you, however, Jesus would not have wanted us to interpret his time of fasting in the desert as a means to get that killer body for spring break.
This Lenten season I encourage everyone, despite your religious background, to think about others. I’m not saying restricting your consumption of alcohol to only weekends is a poor application of the tradition, but maybe you can add something on top of that. Why not give your spare change to that homeless man in the plaza? Maybe even buy him a sandwich.
That’s all Lent is really about. It’s about making sacrifices in your own life to spread love and kindness to others. Now I’m not asking you to drop everything and make a full transition into Mother Teresa. As college students, though, we have a lot to be thankful for, most of which we take for granted. So if you find yourself with extra meal points at the end of the term, think about who else you could feed with those meals. Think about how you could make a positive change in your own lives that would also affect the lives of others around you. Because the way I see it, that is the true reason for the season.