The Season of Lent


After the Feast of Christmas, one of the most popular days of the year for us Catholics to attend Mass, is Ash Wednesday. It is the first day of the Season of Lent. It is also a puzzling day of the year. We do things which are strange to non-Christians. We attend Mass in large numbers and we have ashes imposed on our forehead in the shape of a cross.

Ash Wednesday is 40 days before Easter. It is the day when one needs to realize that there is something with me; I need to change. This awareness comes with a need to repent; a sense of shame that I have done something wrong; that there is something good in me that is not being honoured. Ash Wednesday is the day when I look into my heart and say, “there is something wrong with my heart – I am not supposed to be like this”.

The Ashes are imposed on the forehead with the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”. These are words God said to Adam, “for you are dust and to dust you shall return” in Gnesis 3 vs. 19. Even more than this, as the ash-covered thumb traces the Cross on our forehead, Jesus is saying to you, “You are mine”. Jesus claims not only your heart but your sins also, as His. That is why on Ash Wednesday we wear Ashes in a Cross as a sign of what we need to turn from, and who we need to turn to. The Cross is not only the image of who we are turning to, but it is the price–tag that Jesus has paid to win our hearts back. Your heart is good and Jesus believes it is worth dying for.

The Ashes, traditionally are the burned palms from last year’s Palm Sunday. Ashes are a sign of Repentance, of Humility and renouncing of Pride, which is why when they are imposed, it is proclaimed, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”.

So when someone questions you on Ash Wednesday about the ashes on your forehead, you can confidently say, “The Ashes mean I am a sinner. I am not who I should be. The Cross means I have a Saviour, a God who believes so fully in me that He is making me right now into the person that He believes I can be.”


The forty days of Lent represent the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert and the forty years the Israelites spent in the desert. In the Bible, the number 40 represents ‘a lot’.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 5:40 it says, “By the Solemn 40 days of Lent the Church unites us each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert”. So during Lent we are going out into the desert with Jesus to do battle with the devil, to fight against temptations, to be tested and be purified.

Lent is the time the Church is calling those who have been away from the church for a very long time to come back to God. The church tells us that Lent is a season of three spiritual disciplines that is prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. In the Lenten Season, you increase regular prayer, intensify regular Fasting and intensify regular practice of Almsgiving. Hence, it is a season of Purification, Repentance of sin and sacrifices of love to God.

Why the Church does give us these 3 disciplines, because they co-relate to the three temptations of Jesus in the desert.

  1. “Turn the stones in bread”. Jesus had fasted 40 days and nights; and was being tempted.
  2. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down… Tempting Jesus into the sin of Pride.
  3. The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the nations in their greatness and splendor and said “All this I will give you kneel and worship me”. In a sense the devil was offering Jesus all humanity WITHOUT THE CROSS. But Jesus’ mission was and still is, to take back all the souls that are under the dominion of the devil, by His death on the Cross.

The temptations of Jesus correspond to the sins the devil leads us into, as in 1 John 2: 15-16.

  1. The craving of the flesh, which is a disordered craving for pleasure. It includes gluttony, adultery, formication, drug and alcohol abuse.
  2. The greed of the eyes, which is a disordered craving to possess things that don’t belong to us, and can lead to theft, secretly or by force, money laundering and corruption.
  3. Pride of life – a desire to be like God. A disordered love of self where we put ourselves in the place of God. It is the Root Cause of other sins.


Fasting is an extremely personal matter. Nobody can tell us the proper way to fast. Do what is appropriate for you to increase your focus on our Lord and Saviour. Fasting is a powerful way to remind us of our utter dependence on God. If you know ‘why you are Fasting’, you will be thinking of what season it is, which helps you to stay more prayerful, unlike on other ordinary days. Fasting helps us to control, mortify and put to death the disordered desires for pleasure.


If you have a disordered desire to collect and possess things, to acquire money, the sin of greed – give alms to the poor. It mortifies and puts to death the desire to possess and accumulate things. Lent should be a season when we are particularly intentional about giving to the poor, to the church and those in need. It helps us to grow in freedom from that particular sin of greed.


If you have a disorderly love of self – the sin of pride, vanity – then PRAY during Lent. Prayer is like a Poison; it kills pride at the root by helping us to grow in humility. Because whenever we get down on our knees and pray, we are recognizing that God is God, and we are not. We always need His Help and Grace.

Every year on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday we do what is called a Public Fast – we do it unitedly. But lent is a season of Secret Almsgiving, secret Prayer and secret Fasting as preached by Jesus in Mathew 6: 1-6, 16. Jesus directs us with the words “When you fast, pray, give alms”, He does not say “If you fast, pray, give alms”. Also He says to do it in secret.

  1. Vs 2:- “When you give alms to the poor, do not let  your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret”.
  2. Vs. 6:- “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is with you in secret.”
  3. Vs. 16:- “When you fast wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you”.

Jesus expects His disciples to be regular in almsgiving, prayer and fasting – not in public to be seen by people, but in secret.

The most commonly asked question in Lent is, ‘What are you doing for Lent?’ It should not be about giving up something we like. It should be an offering to God so that we can be holy. God wants our heart and that’s where we will find Him. What if this Lent God wants to give you more, so something special, personal and life–changing for you. Do you want that? The only proper response is to give our Heart to God.

This Lent, may you take up the challenge – not just to abstain from sweets, chocolates, alcohol etc – but commit yourself to FAST maybe one or two days in the week; TO GIVE ALMS and PRAY more frequently and with more generosity. Then this Lent will be different, Grace-filled, a time when you are really united to Jesus in a closer way and to the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will reward your Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving with His Grace of Prayerfulness, Peace and Care for your family and those in need.

– J. Rodrigues