Another Lent is upon me. I start to go through my rituals of fasting and abstinence. I am used to fasting the whole day but what good will come out of this hunger in me? After all, my body is built like a mini fridge with a large storage capacity enough to go without food for more than 24 hours. But hunger as we know isn’t the point about Lent.

Lent is not about being in the state of hunger. That is a sacrifice. Lent is about the act of giving up something to deny our self and to use our self-denial to allow for the Good News to have an impact on others and on ourselves. It is not about always choosing fish over meat but about the awareness of choosing a lesser alternative to deny self and to use that awareness to consciously work on transforming ourselves to become better people.

Lent is like a period for spring cleaning. Every year I will arrive at Lent with a luggage full of spiritual imperfections accumulated through a year of self-centeredness and self-gratification. By the time I get here, I would feel what the Gospel described. I am parched and weak in a spiritual desert. It is time to reset.

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after him”.

We arrive at Lent wounded by the world. Opinions are very strong these days; the margin between right and wrong often blurred by the angle of view. We spent the year fighting against the thought that “I am wrong” when I believed “I was wronged”. The process of resetting our life begins by denying the urge to want to prove ourselves right, and in the process cause even more hurt.

“Repent, and believe the Good News”.

We must actually first believe in the Good News before we can repent to transform. To repent without believing is like groping around a dark room. In the dark we will continue to be devoured by the wild beasts. To believe the Good News first is to turn on the lights and allow the angels to show where repentance can bring us.

The Good News tell us that forgiveness brings life. Without that belief, we cannot repent. And the Good News also say that we can never do this on our own. God has the power to make it happen and He is always ready to grant us all the graces we need.

Lent is 40 days; a lot of time requiring a lot of patience. When we dispute one another, both honest in effort in self-denial, God ask for time not to pick a winner but to allow the situation to develop in such that both are right, or even better that He shows us all a better way. Lent is a time of patience to allow his graces to flow to transform life.

Lent is more than habitual rituals. There lies a deeper significance to choosing fish on a Friday. To deny self is to arrest that budding resentment, check that simmering anger and quell that bubbling bitterness to provoke an inner change in us so that our life will become a living testimony to “Repent, and believe the Good News”.


More than choosing fish on a Friday. (Photo: Pla thu, short mackerel, in a market in Samut Songkhram, Thailand)

First Sunday of Lent