Let's Look at 'Lent'
Let's Look at 'Lent'
By Ron Kempen
Lent. The Catholic Catechism tells us that, “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” One website says this about Lent: “Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.”
Already the red flags pop up for the Bible reading fundamentalist - or they should be popping up. Why? Simply because a Bible believer knows that penance in our part does not remove sin. Sure, it may be of some value to examine oneself with God’s word to see how you are walking with God. Fasting is encouraged as well, and both are very Biblical practices. But the penance part is what disturbs me. The Catholic Catechism claims that penance is done for the forgiveness of sins, by first having a contrite heart and then going through the Sacrament of Penance or confession of the sins to a priest. This sacrament is meant to be done at regular times to continue having your sins removed.
However, as well meant as this may seem in a person’s mind, the Bible denies that any of this actually removes sin. It tells us, “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:23). And the Bible also tells us that we are washed, cleansed, redeemed, and bought by the shed blood of Christ, not by righteous deeds that we do. (Titus 3:5).
Jesus already purged the sins for those who were believing in what He did at Calvary. So if your faith is in what you are doing every time you make a confession to a priest, aren’t you then denying what Jesus did at Calvary? Also, how does this prepare one for the resurrection of our Lord on Easter morning? Jesus did that nearly 2000 years ago. Easter is just a memorial of that, but all of that was done a long time ago at Golgotha.
Another point that disturbs me is the Catholic “Stations of the Cross.” From the opening prayer, you say, “From the bottom of my heart I am sorry for all my sins, because by them I have offended Thee, Who art infinitely good. I will die rather than offend thee again.” You then proclaim before each station, “Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.”
Oh, that sounds so “Christian-like” and no doubt it is - so far. Following these words are the humbling remarks read by the clergy that you may or may not feel in that manner. Then they continue by praying an “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” and a “Glory be.” All three are cases of reciting repetitious words. All praying to Mary, in particular, is against God’s will. But the big kicker is if you feel that your sins are removed by your sacraments and purgatory, aren’t you again denying the very thing that Jesus did nearly two thousand years ago?
There are a few other troubling spots in the Catholic Stations. The second station starts with a prayer that goes like this, “My Jesus, Who by thine own will didst take on thee the most, heavy cross I made for thee by my sins. Oh make me feel their heavy weight and weep for them ever while I live.” But the fact is that no amount of self punishing will - or could - remove a sin. It’s only with the shedding of blood that Christ does that.
The Third station has a prayer in it that says, “Thy grace aid me never more to commit them,” (sins). But one must be careful because the Catholic Church says that graces come by the mass and sacraments. Again, none of those things give a person anything - outside of a “feel good experience.”
The fourth station has Jesus meeting His mother. This too is pure speculation; perhaps He did, but they have it almost as if Jesus (and us too) looked to her for a friendly face for the help we need. But Acts 4:12 tells us, “Salvation is found in no one else; for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Obviously they are talking about Jesus. I could continue, but I’m sure you understand that there is a different slant on the stations than what is Biblical and spiritually healthy for us.
Perhaps the main reason that I object to the Catholic manner of Lenten practices is the point that they say, “The key to understanding Lent is simple, Baptism…..Lent is the primary time for celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, because Lent is the season for baptismal preparation and baptismal renewal.” This is no doubt one of my biggest reasons for leaving the Catholic Church. They claim that sacraments give you the grace and the means to meriting salvation, whereas the Word of God is clear Jesus died for the purpose of saving sinners. These are two separate gospels, and as the Bible says so clearly, when Jesus died, He finished the work that needed to get us to Heaven. (Our job is to believe in Him. He did it once, for all whom believe in Him and His work done at Calvary, not something that we can do.)
And just so there is no misunderstanding, works are necessary only as that they give evidence that you have changed in your heart and live for Him. They cannot give us anything to help our deserving of an eternity in Heaven, for Jesus did all of that.
Now after looking at Lent, let’s leave it alone and turn to the Jesus of the Bible for His Salvation and for His guidance as well. Praise God for His wondrous works. Amen, Alleluia.