Holiness Smackdown

If you’re thinking I’m going to be writing about Pentacostals or wrestling or Pentacostals wrestling (though somebody probably would pay to see that, I’m sure), I’m actually going to be writing about Lent.

Lent.  Those forty days when Catholics are pressured by other pew sitting Catholics into a competition of holiness.  I’m not kidding.  I hate Lent. Because that’s what I read on blogs and in articles and hear from fellow pew sitting Catholics. 

Now, most are probably just sharing without realizing the consequences of what they write and how people read their words.  But honestly it doesn’t matter.  It’s a competition to see who can do the most penances, the greatest fasting, add the most devotions.  It’s all about the external actions.  It’s all about how miserable and depressed you can be to prove how holy you really are and how much God loves you more than the person sitting next to you.

The Church talks about, well at least emphasizes, three things in Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Yet fasting gets all the hype.  It’s all about what you are giving up.  You might get a few that work on prayer.  But I’ve never heard anyone focus on almsgiving.  It’s always about fasting from some minor food (usually chocolate, sweets, or coffee) or maybe TV.  Always fasting.  Or maybe attending Stations of the Cross. 

And it’s always fasting just to fast.  There is no real purpose behind.  There is no desire to truly quit what they are fasting because they only have to give it up for forty days.  It’s not permanent.  It’s very temporary and has no real effect on the person.  The item they are fasting from doesn’t impede their relationship with Jesus.  It’s about fasting for fasting sake.  Pointless.  This fasting is never about change but about an external indicator of holiness.  There is no internal change.  People know they don’t have to change.  They just have to sweat it out for forty days and then they can go back to what they were doing.

This is how Lent becomes treated as an inconvenience and an interruption rather than as a liturgical season that is meant to help us grow spiritually.   So fasting that is done for form sake rather than as an impetus to change.  Which then becomes a competition of holiness. 

There is just too much focus on pointless fasting.  Too much focus on external behavior rather than on internal change of heart.  And one of the many reasons why I hate Lent.

I can see the point of Lent.  I just hate the practice of it, especially by many Catholics.  That competition of holiness judged by external indicators. 

As someone who can’t really fast (too many food issues aside), fasting also seems to be used as a punishment rather than an aid.  Well, Lent gets used as punishment rather than an aid.  It’s all about how you failed the rest of the year so Lent is the time to make up for those failures by fasting from trivial things so as to punish yourself to make God love you even just a little. 

Yes, punishing yourself to make God love you.  I have yet to see that work.  I should know.  I’ve tried.  I’ve tried punishing myself so that my mother would love me and stop abusing me.  Didn’t work then either. 

You can’t make someone love you.  And you definitely can’t make God love you.  He either loves you or He doesn’t.  You can’t do anything about it.

I wonder if people know that.  Do I know that?  

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