Lent and Sacrifice: An Opinion PieceMar 08, 2022 02:00PM ● By Candice Stewart
If you’re a Christian, grew up in Christian culture (like me), or you’re knowledgeable about Christian practices, you would be more than familiar with Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter. The beginning of this year’s Lenten period was on March 2nd, Ash Wednesday.
Though I don’t actively participate in the activities of Ash Wednesday or Lent, I often use it as an opportunity to reflect on my life and the habits or practices I would like to sacrifice for that 40-day period. It provides me with a feeling of newness and being refreshed.
Despite this practice, I was never fully educated on the reason for Lent and what it means. I have always just done what has become the norm for me.
With a deep-seated curiosity on the matter, I made contact with Rev. Deacon Bertram Gayle of the St. Andrew Parish Church in Jamaica. I asked him about Lent and what sacrifice has to do with the period. I also asked how non-Christians could participate in the action of giving up on some things. This is what he had to share:
“Lent is a 40-day period in which Christians prepare for Easter. Easter will be a time to celebrate new possibilities, death over life, good over evil. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.
In traditional Christianity, the day is marked by a special service that involves the symbolic use of ashes. Ashes are used to trace the form of a cross on the forehead of worshippers. At the beginning and at the end of the act, the leader reminds the gathering of their mortality with a verse from the Bible, Genesis 3:19: ‘Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.’ While receiving the ashes, each person is admonished with words from Mark 1:15, ‘Repent and believe the Gospel.’
Rev. Deacon Bertram Gayle
This centuries-old practice invites us to come to two realizations:
- We own nothing permanently
- It is best to walk life’s short and fragile journey living the life of selfless love Jesus embodied.
These two considerations encourage a life of detachment from stuff, often expressed in the practice of giving up or sacrificing them for Lent. We give things up in two ways: by denying ourselves those things to which we feel too attached, and by giving to those who have the least - the poor.
In giving up things, we acknowledge we don’t have permanent ownership of or access to them. We also acknowledge that holding on to them may not be the best expression of love. These appear to be ideas that the least religious person can appreciate.”
Sacrifices and the ability to willingly give
Based on Rev. Deacon Gayle’s remarks, my decision to “give up” or sacrifice something is more grounded and has more meaning. This year, I have decided to deny my access to social media apps: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Additionally, I have given up the consumption of some foods and beverages with a desire to further improve my health. I have also made the decision to give more to people within my communities and networks who are in great need.
Thus far, it has been a struggle to deny myself social media time. You really aren’t aware how much you rely on something until it is taken away. In my case, I apparently used way too much social media. It feels like I check my phone for updates every ten minutes or so. The removal of some food and drink items has not yet proved difficult. The temptation has presented itself but I have thus far been victorious.
I generally volunteer my time and other resources to the benefit of people in need. As such, that has been my easiest decision for Lent in 2022.
With the Rev. Deacon Gayle’s insight, I couldn’t help but think that generally, people tend to focus on the superficial in the Lenten sacrifices. Look at me, I’ve given up perhaps the most superficial thing worth giving up right now – my use of social media. Let’s not begin to address the health and diet matter. From my observations, that’s usually what we tend to give up.
I recently read the work of Rick Pidcock (Contributor of Baptist News Global) and he shared insight on the sacrifices of Lent. In his opinion piece, “What if we cared about Black History Month as much as Lent?”, he calls out people who focus on the superficial for Lent.
“What if instead of giving up cake for 40 days, we spent that time learning about and grieving for the broken, hungry bodies of our Black neighbors? What if, instead of not drinking wine, we became more aware of and lamented the shed blood of our Black neighbors?” he says.
“We do need to recognize how much deeper this season of Lent could be if we looked for ways to meet Jesus in the ones we have oppressed,” he continues.
I have to say that I agree with his sentiments 100%. Though our sacrifices are unique to us and they have their meaning, we ought to consider a broader picture with deeper meaning. Ask yourself how you can positively impact (in whatever ways) the lives of others or institutions that impact our ‘skin folk’ and people from our culture. This is not limited to people in the U.S. This charge is applicable to you wherever you are.
Have a good Lenten season and Happy Easter when it comes.
Baptist News Global – What if we cared about Black History Month as much as Lent?
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