With the beginning of the Lenten Season approaching this week with Ash Wednesday, today’s Gospel reading from Mark 7 brings to mind the purpose of many common Lenten traditions and do they really bring me closer to my Lord and Savior Jesus.
Jesus was not happy with the Pharisees who questioned him about his disciples and why they do not strictly follow the traditions of their elders. Jesus called them hypocrites and went on to tell them, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”
In seeking the purpose for my Lenten practice, Catholic Answers at catholic.com gave a brief definition saying, “Lent is the 40 days before Easter in which Catholics pray, fast, contemplate, and engage in acts of spiritual self-discipline. Catholics do these things because Easter, which celebrates the Resurrection of Christ, is the greatest holy day of the Christian year (even above Christmas) and Catholics have recognized that it is appropriate to prepare for such a holy day by engaging in such disciplines.”
I wonder how much giving up chocolates, or soft drinks, or alcohol, or these types of sacrifices bring me spiritual discipline? When Lent ends, I would go right back to indulging myself. I would think that finding a discipline that would be beneficial for my spiritual growth would be a better choice. Maybe things like giving up TV time for silent prayer time or spiritual reading would help to draw me closer to Jesus. Maybe I could find ways to more often attend daily Mass and allow these practices of spiritual growth to become lasting habits.
I think this year when I am asked, “What are you giving up for Lent,” I am going to respond saying I am giving up all of the human traditions that honor God with my lips and not my heart. Who knows, my answer might lead to a pretty stimulating conversation along with a greater conversion, transformation and surrender to the Holy Will of God. Amen.