THE WORD: Lent tells us Easter is not fast

Published 9:53 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

Matthew 6:16-18

An armed robber held up a French priest on a dark, back street in Paris and demanded his wallet. As the priest opened his coat to reach for his wallet, the thief caught sight of his clerical collar and immediately apologized: “Never mind, Father, I didn’t realize you were a priest. I’ll be on my way.”

The priest was relieved, of course, and offered the man a cigar. “No, thank you, Father,” the robber said, “I gave up smoking for Lent.”

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Lent is one of the Christian traditions that mark 46 days before Easter. Now, Lent the tradition of giving something up, something we enjoy, until Easter. Usually it means something like chocolate, snacks, or some other alleged vices. One person said he gave up taxes for Lent. I think he’s serving time now. Another said he had given up his New Year’s resolutions for Lent. Comedian Stephen Colbert said he was giving up being Catholic for Lent.

People laugh at the idea of giving up things for Lent, but the idea, originally, was to share in the sufferings of Jesus. Jesus gave his life for us. We ought to give up something to show our devotion to him. The central purpose of Lent is to bring us back to God. That is the message from Matthew Chapter 6.

We hear Jesus say, “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Jesus was not saying, “Do not fast.” In fact, he appears to be endorsing the practice of fasting, and he gives directions for how to go about it. “Put oil on you head and wash your face.” In other words, fasting is good — but not if it is an idle show of your religiosity.

If fasting or making small personal sacrifices brings you closer to God, that’s all good. But it’s important not to lose sight of why we fast or why we make personal sacrifices. The point of Lent, or fasting, is that we shall be reconciled with God, that we who have wandered away from Him might come home. We are here confessing that we need to come back to God. To say we need to be reconciled to God is to confess that all of us to some degree have become far from God.

What’s the best way to get close to God? Empty yourself of all the things that stand in the way of God and be filled with the love of Jesus Christ.

JOHN MOXLEY can be reached at