I am by no means a very religious person. I believe in God, and I believe that Christianity and the Bible are very important moral guides. Religion was not pushed upon me by my parents, even though Filipinos are (generally) Roman Catholic, and I was always encouraged to think for myself and form my own opinions rather than tie my way of thinking to institutions. I believe that as a thinking and intelligent human being, I have unique ways to approach certain topics.
My biggest axe to grind (for at least 13 or 14 years now) has to be with the season of Lent. For those of you who are not Roman Catholics, it is a liturgical season that stresses reconciliation, repentance, and sacrifice. That is its intended function, and there is nothing wrong with these concepts. In recent times, people have used it as an assault on the following concepts: accountability and actions having consequences.
From my experience, it is the celebration of pretentiousness and inconsistency that are contradicting the actual teachings of the Catholic Church. Reconciliation, repentance and sacrifice are not something that should be done some of the time, it is something that should be done all of the time. Virtues are not something to be practiced at one’s own convenience; they are something to be done on a daily basis no matter what the situation.
I have the same gripe with Thanksgiving. I should be thankful every single day, not just one day of the year. I should practice gratitude on a daily basis, not just on a part-time basis or when it is convenient for me. This is something we need to understand.
Accountability becomes diminished to the point where it literally does not matter anymore to anyone because people incorrectly interpret the idea of Lent as a sort of “get out of jail free” card with unlimited uses. Many people interpret it as that because they believe that they are right with the Lord and that their neighbor no longer matters.
Where does the accountability to each other go? It goes unnoticed, namely because penance in the form of prayer does nothing to correct the situations that were confessed in the first place. People who have not read the Bible (or have some weird interpretation of it) should remember that we are supposed to love one another, and that extends to accountability to each other as well. But how do we love one another when we are using the Sacrament of Confession and the season of Lent as “get out of jail free” cards?
Actions have consequences. Only an insane person or someone with zero concept of virtues, morals and ethics would believe otherwise. Lent effectively is an assault on this concept because there is no accountability. Without accountability, actions don’t have consequences and we are free to do whatever we want without fearing any sort of reprisal. Lent effectively promotes this through prolonging the idea that you only need to be right with God and not with your fellow man. This is my issue with Christians. They believe they are answerable to no one, and that sort of thinking is why we are divided more than ever.
Many people often bragged about giving something up for Lent. Video games, food, etc. were most often talked about. It effectively made it a competition or a race over who was more virtuous or more ascetic. Since when did virtues, morals and ethics become a competition? To make things worse, people would openly advertise it, much like one would advertise the latest products and services on a billboard. Since when did virtues, morals, ethics, etc. become something we need to advertise?
Saint Theresa of Lisieux once said, “I will not be a saint by halves.” Our current interpretation of Lent effectively promotes being a saint by halves because people drop the ideas of penance, reconciliation and sacrifice once the season is over. These are not part-time things; these are, and will always be, full-time things.
And if you don’t want to take it from me, take it from someone else:
“Given the faulty foundations upon which the practice of Lent was established, one wonders why such a practice is perpetuated. It is both ill-conceived and wrongly focused and as such not truly beneficial for the life of the church. The practice of self-denial is to be the daily experience of the believer.” – Roland Barnes, 2014