Growing up as a Roman Catholic, I always felt that Lent was a time for us to be religious. However, as I grew up and began to study the Bible I learnt that the concept of lent is nowhere in the Bible. Roman Catholic priests happen to go around advising people on abstinence to show God some love and devotion in this season with an abstinence that makes a difference in their lives, like if they usually crave non-vegetarian food they should abstain from it and if they are habitual smokers or drinkers then they should abstain from that too. Now let’s see what the Bible has to say about such religiosity.
20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,
21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”
22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)–in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?
23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Speaking of severe treatment on the body in verse 23, I am reminded of the extreme practices on the supposedly lenten Good Friday by Roman Catholics in the Philippines, whose religious zeal doesn’t appear to come from the Bible but from copying Muslims during Muharram, whose ungodly rebellion promotes the fear of men in religion as over the fear of God. However, it is typical for Christians who do not know their Bible to go aping non-Christians in their practice of Christianity. My guess then is as good as yours concerning the future of the lenten season that it may someday become a food festival as it is with the case of the Islamic season of fasting called Ramadan, where the sale of food and grocery items go up by about 71%.
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
John 8 (Jesus’ word)
23 And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.
24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
If we are to acquaint ourselves with what pleases God, we should understand that it more to do with morality than it has to do with anything else. Take a look at the 10 Commandments from Exo 20:3-17 in the light of what Jesus says in Mat 22:36-40, notice that the first four commandments speak of the believer’s primary duty to love God and then the other six is his duty towards those in his environment. There is nothing here about what you must not eat or drink, it’s all about how you think, speak and act because that show the condition of your rebellious heart before God (Lk 6:43-48). The reason God requires you to believe in His Son Jesus is because of the redeeming power that is made available in Him to turn you from your sins to the Triune God Himself.
Luke 6 (Jesus’ word)
43 “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit.
44 “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.
45 “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.
46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
47 “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like:
48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
What Lent is about according to the Catholic Education Resource Centre
“Most importantly, Jesus fasted and prayed for “40 days and 40 nights” in the desert before He began His public ministry (Mt 4:2).”
Every Catholic I know and have been brought up with believes that Lent observes the 40 days of Jesus fasting but the Catholic Education Resource Centre neither corrects this stand in the Church nor does it document this stand, which it does so only to play safe. For many Roman Catholics, it seems that Jesus’ 40 days of fasting culminated with His death and resurrection but this stand is absurd because reading Mat 3:13 to 4:20 in the context of John 1:19-42 shows that Jesus’ 40 days of fasting was the very initiation of His ministry and so it is absurd to have the Last Supper during such a Lenten season when Jesus hadn’t any disciples during this time. However, if you were to take a look at what the Catholic Education Resource Centre has to say, it seems they are well aware of this fact but the people’s ignorance plays well in their favour during this season and so this touch topic is best swept under the carpet. History has seen the Roman Catholic Church not only deny people access to the Bible but also persecute and slander people as heretics, people like William Tyndale who made the Bible accessible to the people.
Decree of the Council of Toulouse (1229 C.E.): “We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.”
The fate of William Tyndale in 1536 C.E.: William Tyndale was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. History has it that the Church forbid owning or reading the Bible to control and restrict the teachings and to enhance their own power and importance.
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
To conclude, I would like to say that there is no such thing in Christianity as a season of pleasing God or a season of obedience to God for that matter because when one is born again as mentioned in Jn 3:3, his nature towards sin is overcome by the saving power of Christ to a nature of obedience unto God. When I speak of nature, I mean the effect of Christ’s atonement in this person’s life is for real and not a seasonal show of trifle religiosity, owing to one’s sloth or ignorance of the Bible. Remember, we were made in the image of God i.e. we shared in the very nature of God before the fall of Adam and the redeeming power of Christ restores this nature to us in Salvation.