Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lent and the Sunday "Loophole"

Is it true that on Sundays during Lent, you can go back to doing whatever you decided to give up?

Short Answer: It depends on what you are giving up and why you are giving it up.

Long Answer: In order to embrace the penitential character of Lent, some people will give up certain worldly pleasures or things that they typically enjoy, such as chocolate, video games, or watching TV. Or, they will take this opportunity to finally overcome habitual sins or bad habits. That thing you always find yourself confessing? Lent is a good time to rid yourself of that.

But what about Sundays? Isn’t Sunday a time of joy, celebration, and relaxation? It seems that the whole spirit of the Sabbath day is opposed to self-denial, which causes many people to choose this day to indulge in whatever pleasure they are giving up during Lent. This is acceptable, but we have to be careful. Sometimes this indulgence can lead to a misunderstanding of what Lent and the Sabbath day are all about, if we approach these things with the wrong mindset.

It is true that Sunday is more a time of prayer, almsgiving, charitable works, spiritual retreats -- basically, doing positive things – then it is a day of fasting and abstinence, which are more negative actions of avoiding things. But, it is also true that we should always be working towards greater self-mastery and the conquering of sin in our lives. So, while technically it would be okay for you to eat that candy bar on Sunday, if you have trouble saying no to your cravings, I don't think it would necessarily be against the spirit of the Sabbath day to exercise some restraint. It is really for you to decide whether or not that is something you need to do.

Of course, if what you are trying to give up is a sin, then you should never give in to that!

The problem is, when you view Sunday as a break from your self-imposed penance or abstinence, then a day of quiet thanksgiving can quickly become a day of gluttony and self-indulgence. The key is to relax your sacrifices while still making Sunday the holy day that it is meant to be. This requires balance and moderation.

So, if you are giving up chocolate, I suggest eating two or three, not the whole bag. If you are giving up Facebook, spend an hour online, not the whole day. That way you are acknowledging the celebratory spirit of Sunday without getting too carried away. Remember, Sunday is a day of doing good works, of being charitable and growing in your own spiritual life … not a day of feasting on your guilty pleasures.

Pax Christi,

1 comment:

  1. Perfect! Glad you understood my question; I was concerned that you wouldn't!


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