Fat Tuesday, the culmination of a week of gluttony and excess, has passed and we enter the season of Lent. For Catholics and many Christians, this marks the time of repentance for their sins and to begin their fast for 40 days (not including Sundays) by giving up meat, fish, eggs, and fat until Easter Sunday. The 40 days represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by the devil.

Traditionally, ashes used on Ash Wednesday are the burned palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. They are then blessed before being used in the ceremony where a priest smudges them on foreheads in the shape of a cross. He traditionally says; “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return”, or “Repent and believe in the Gospel” While it is not required that a worshiper wear the ashes for the rest of the day, many Christians choose to do so. However, dining out or doing non-essential shopping is considered inappropriate on Ash Wednesday.

Today, many Catholics still fast on Ash Wednesday and do not eat any meat, and are expected to not eat meat on Fridays. Fasting today means eating only two small meals that don’t add up to one meal, or one full meal only. Children and the elderly are exempt. In addition, Catholics will avoid beef, pork, chicken, ham, and lamb, on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and other Fridays during Lent. but fish and animal products like eggs and milk are allowed.

Christians throughout the present world focus on 3 things: Prayer, Fasting (the modern-day definition is abstaining from something to reduce distractions and focus more on God), and giving, or Charity.

-Prayer during Lent focuses on our need for God’s forgiveness. It’s also about repenting (turning away from our sins) and receiving God’s mercy and love.

-Fasting, or giving something up, is a very common practice during Lent. The idea is that giving up something that’s a regular part of life, like eating dessert or scrolling through Facebook, can be a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice. That time can also be replaced with more time connecting with God.

-Charity, giving money or doing something good for others is a way to respond to God’s grace, generosity, and love. For example, some people spend time volunteering or donate the money they would normally use to buy something, like their morning coffee.

Wouldn’t this be a wonderful world if we didn’t have to have an ‘event’ to be charitable or practice moderation in all we do or remember to be grateful and be kind? I wonder what would our world look like if we practiced Grace with each other as a rule, not an exception. What if we choose forgiveness instead of revenge, or even just chose to smile instead of frown. “Imagine”, as John Lennon sang “I wonder if you can…” As always, my hopes are for your hopes and dreams…..T