It is amazing to me how our society and in particular, our Christian communities have progressively devalued the importance of our most important holidays. The Christmas season is now more materialistic and patronizing than spiritual. Even the Easter season has been reduced to a casual glance at the cross where Jesus died.
What caught my attention recently was the advertisement of a party being held THIS WEEK called a Mardi Gras Party. This was not the only event called Mardi Gras that has been advertised since the celebration was officially observed on Feb. 17. Most Americans, particularly those living in the South, are aware of Mardi Gras and Carnival. But not many are aware of how these two “feast” events are connected to the season of Lent. Since Lent involves fasting (the opposite of feasting), it is significant to know that the early observers of Lent would eat all they could the day before on Mardi Gras, which means “Fat Tuesday” or have Carnival, which means “Flesh be gone,” to prepare to refrain from eating meat and then living a life of controlled religious sobriety beginning a day later for the next 40 days.
Here we are at the end of the Lenten season, and Christians are still celebrating Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is ONE day. Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus the Christ. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the Christian believer — through prayer, praise, purifying, penitence, and patience for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Sunday is Palm Sunday, and next week ends Lent.
It is late in the season, but not too late for us to seriously consider this Easter season. Let us together in earnest cultivate a life of prayer. We are much better when we carve out a special time daily for Him. Then, let us claim God’s promises. When we are faithful to our calling, the Lord promises to bless us in ways that defy our understanding. It is always helpful in prayer to confess our faults. Finally, it will be strengthening to commit to fasting with the several other thousands of Christians around the world as we learn from our Master the spiritual strength we derive from sacrificing for another.
So we are taught in the Model Prayer to ask the Lord to not lead us into temptation. We first recognize the possibility that we can and will be tempted, we request help through prayer, we resist the devil, retreat from obvious strongholds, remove issues and items associated with temptations, replace bad behavior with good, and resolve to always do what is best for the glory of God. When we ask fervently for the Lord’s intervention when temptations knock, we will better be able to tame our temptations!
Fasting (instead of feasting) is like defragmenting a computer. It is a necessary process. Defragmenting the computer enhances performance. Fasting provides a similar effect to the spiritual life of a believer. Isaiah 58 quotes God’s promises to those who fast. Spiritual breakthrough takes place, wholeness and strength appear, prayers are answered, divine guidance is granted, freshness and growth are realized. Special time with God through praying and fasting yields special blessings. Less Mardi Gras, and more time with the Master!
Lord, help us to sacrifice the conveniences of life to grow more intimately with you, just as you sacrificed your life to show grace and mercy to us! Amen.
Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com