Dr. Swisher, Do we have to give something up for Lent?  

-Antonio, Toledo

Hello Antonio. 

Thank you for this relevant and timely question. As you know the Season of Lent began last week with Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days until Easter Sunday morning. You’ll notice if you look at a calendar there are more than 40 days in between Ash Wednesday and Easter morning. That is because in the ancient Church it was felt that Sunday’s in Lent were “mini Easters” and shouldn’t be counted in the 40 day time period.

Now to your specific question. The idea of sacrifice or giving something up for Lent dates back to the 4th Century and supposedly encourages giving up things we enjoy to replicate the suffering of Jesus. What is misunderstood here is that Jesus suffered on our behalf so we wouldn’t have to pay that price. 

When people who have chosen to give something up during Lent talk with me they say things like “I can’t wait to eat chocolate again.” Or “I fell off the wagon and ate meat instead of fish on Friday and I feel so guilty.” I just don’t understand how any of that brings someone closer to God. 

Instead wouldn’t it make more sense to add something for Lent? Such as adding a time of prayer, or joining a Bible study or committing to be in Church each weekend. Other options would be volunteering to feed the homeless or helping the infirmed. These additions to your schedule and routine would be much more likely to deepen your faith and positively impact your relationship with God. Rather than being overly obsessed with snack food or meals. 

May this Season of Lent be especially meaningful to you and those you love.

Dr. Stephen Lowell Swisher

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