Lent has begun with Ash Wednesday this past week. Lent is a period of 40 days when each year, Christians highlight this penitential season as a time of self-examination, reformation of one’s life, and continued development of a deeper spiritual life. The recommended practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving become the focus of Lenten activity. Each of these spiritual practices is aimed at personal discipline as well as continue concern for others, especially the poor.
The forty days of lent are a symbolic biblical period of time during which personal transformation occurs and out of which people surface as more spiritual, ready to carry out God’s mission.
On Ash Wednesday our scriptures call us to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Fasting was initially much stricter in the past than it is now. At one time fasting entailed one simple meal a day without meat, fish or other delicacies. Now we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but during Lent we abstain from meat on all Fridays in Lent.
These penitential practices are not meant to cause us pain and suffering but rather to encourage us to think about how we can make sacrifices to strengthen our spiritual life along with prayer and charity.