What if your Lent was more than a Seafood Feast this year?
The Lenten Fish Fry. It’s iconic at this point. It’s almost like Lent and Fish Frys are inseparable — which begs the question: if there’s no Fish Fry at the parish this year, is it even Lent?
All jokes aside, there is truth in how we as Catholics embrace Fridays in Lent as though they’re meant to be seafood feasts. But, to our detriment, we end up missing out on so much that the Lord wants to share with us (on those days especially).
Lent helps us do something hard but necessary: to take up our cross to follow Jesus. For some reason, we aren’t generally enthused about carrying crosses even if we hypothetically understand that it’s part of the Christian life. The Christian life, however, calls us to nothing less than dying to ourselves so that we can live for God.
What does it mean to die to oneself? In our fallenness, we tend to think of ourselves first, putting our feelings and desires before other people and even before God. Jesus calls us, with his help, to reverse that order, putting God and others before ourselves, being drawn out of ourselves in love.
The problem is: loving God and others before self is easier said than done. This is why we have penitential times so that we can learn to say “no” to ourselves and our desires. Even something as simple as not eating the food that we like or as much as we like is a sign that we are called to sacrifice for something greater.
From basic penitential acts, we are called to deeper, internal acts of putting others before self. First of all, sacrificing time for God in prayer says “no” to being in control of our own time. We recognize that God is more important than the things we want to do. We are called to faith and obedience to God, putting his will and truth before our own opinions and desires.
It is the same with others. We need to make time to be present to others, both our families and those in need. Carving out time to serve others shows that we are not simply trapped within ourselves. We have to learn to be attentive to what others need and to make sacrifices to help them.
All of these acts — giving up food, time in prayer, or putting others first — are sacrifices that enable us to take up our cross with Jesus. They make us Christ-like in imitating Jesus’s love of the Fathers and those for whom he gave his life.
Ultimately, this Lent is a time for us to decide: will we walk with Christ and take a more penitential approach to these 40 days? Or will we feast on seafood and miss out on what the Lord has in store for us?
Looking for a good way to journey through this Lent as a man in Christ? Our 2023 Lenten spiritual exercise starts February 22 (Ash Wednesday). Get prepared here.
Dr. Staudt holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Ave Maria University and B.A. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). He serves as Director of Content for Exodus and as Visiting Associate Professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver. He was previously the Associate Superintendent for the Archdiocese of Denver. He has founded a Catholic school and served as a DRE in two parishes and as Director of Catholic Studies at the University of Mary. He is the author of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN), Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture Yesterday & Today (Angelico Press). His editing experience includes six years as the managing editor of the journal Nova et Vetera and the books Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Catholic Education Press) and The University and the Church: Don J. Briel’s Essays on Education (Cluny Media).
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