Like many Catholic children, I gave up sweets for Lent. I remember
creeping downstairs on Easter morning, hoping to be greeted by a
marvelous chocolate bunny. After surviving the torturous season of
sacrifice, I could barely wait to nibble the cottontail’s long, delicious ears.
I would sometimes be disappointed to find a hollow chocolate cross
in my basket instead. Propped in green plastic grass stood a milk chocolate
version of my Savior’s object of torture. I couldn’t eat it. It felt blasphemous
to do so. While it was almost impossible to endure the long, sweet-less
days of Lent, the triviality of my “sacrifice” always shocked me when I was
confronted by that chocolate cross on Easter morning.
The season of Lent is puzzling to many. Denying ourselves our
favorite treats or habits—even for a short time—seems archaic in our
I-want-it-now culture. Lent is a plodding, definitive crescendo that leads
up to the cacophonous noise of Good Friday and the gorgeous aria of
Easter. It’s a season marked by deliberateness and intentionality.
But we often get in the way of our own best intentions. When fasting
we might be tempted to feel a sense of pride about our sacrifice. The very
thing we relinquish sometimes clamors inside us as a “need” to be met.
Instead of focusing on Jesus Christ, our attention can dangerously be
drawn to the very thing we’ve voluntarily surrendered.
Even so, the practice of Lent can be a valuable discipline. It’s difficult
to grasp what our sense of entitlement does to our bodies and souls. Our
culture worships at the feet of pleasure. As we “shovel it in,” we can become
desensitized to our needs—the real hungers in our lives. Observing Lent
can help us wrestle with the causes of our perpetual consumption. When
we decide to relinquish what fails to truly satisfy, we come face-to-face
with some tough questions. Can we believe Jesus when he says, “People do
not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of
God”? How can we make room for the Savior in our lives? Can we grasp
the reality of Good Friday and live within its irony?
Lent challenges us to consider the honest answers to these and other
soul-searching questions. It invites us to jump off the hamster wheel of
consumption and experience the pinch of abstaining from thoughtless
Perhaps I was offended by a hollow chocolate cross for another
reason: The outside of our lives might look pretty, but we can be tragically
empty. Occasionally, the reality of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and the power of
his love break through our hardened hearts. The realization causes us to
gasp. The hollow parts of our souls can be filled.
(page 90, Mosaic Holy Bible)