I've grown up in the Protestant tradition, with a sporadic practice of giving up things for Lent, always thinking I was trying to identify with Jesus' suffering on the cross by suffering through six weeks without candy and desserts. It only took a few years of adulthood before I recognized the pathetic nature of this approach and Lent eventually became something I didn't really practice. A few years ago, however, I was challenged to give up sweets for Lent, mostly because I had developed a very strong sweet tooth that was giving my dentist a headache. Early in the Lenten season, I was spending a weekend with a Catholic friend. He was very pointedly avoiding the M&Ms and coffee in our conference room on Saturday, but come Sunday, I was shocked to see him munching and drinking away like any old heathen. Upon further questioning, he gently instructed me that Lent is a 40 day fast, (that being a recurring number tied up with Biblical redemption) and that there are actually 52 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Thus each Sunday during the Lenten period was not a fasting day. My friend has a PhD in Molecular Biology but I was still skeptical about the math so I actually went and counted the days on a calendar. Lo and behold, he was right!
Turns out that, outside the Tradition of Ludicrous Self-Denial, Lent is a period of anticipation and celebration! Each Sunday is meant to be a mini-Easter, where we break our fast and look forward to the big celebration on Easter morning. I cannot begin to describe how freeing this was for me. Instead of dragging my feet through the weeks preceding Easter, I would eagerly look forward to Sundays when I could enjoy a small something sweet and think about God's love and the wonderful story of the empty tomb. It turns out that the discipline of fasting should, paradoxically, be a freeing exercise.
As this Lenten season begins, I humbly offer out to the world a film I made many years ago. It is a film about freedom through sacrifice. May the next six weeks bring freedom from whatever has been confining you this year.