A friend once asked me why I “do Lent” when it isn’t in the Bible. Sailing right by the fact that there are many things that Christians do that really aren’t in the Bible, a bunch of things we don’t do that are in the Bible and Catholics don’t really hold to the idea that the Bible spells out all we need to do. (Note that Christ specifically commissions Peter to build his Church, but there is no where in the Bible where he mentions collecting the letters of his followers and using this scripture in addition to the Old Testament scriptures that He himself had) But the question about Lent still left me scratching my head. This friend celebrated Christmas and Easter as “Bible based” but missed that Jesus is often described as drawing away for a time for prayer and specifically in Mathew 4:1-11 his journey into the desert for 40 days is described. I am pretty sure if you are following the Magi and giving gifts on Christmas and marking that Biblical you will have a hard time chiding me as non-biblical for making small sacrifices in immitation of Jesus’ great fast.
As Catholics much of what we do is the living action of liturgy to keep us ever immersed in liturgy. Most of us aren’t going to drop everything and follow Christ into the desert like the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers or take on the rigorous Asceticism of some of out Saints, but we can follow them in small ways within our own gardens.
So Lent brings us to our own desert. This year for me I am starting out rather badly as I have spent the last day and a half in bed and my car is in the shop. As a family we have given up TV and the children were remarkably on board with that. We are doing our 40 bags.