Christians all over the world observe ‘Lenten season’. Beginning today, they prepare themselves for fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. They pray and meditate on Lenten mysteries. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on the events of suffering, sacrifice, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The period of Lent (lasting 40 days) starts with Ash Wednesday, and ends on the Holy Saturday after the Easter Vigil Mass. On Ash Wednesday, the priest, while applying ashes on the forehead of the people, says, “Remember, thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return”, or “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. It is time to learn how to forgive our enemies as Jesus did. And this is an opportunity to repent for wrong deeds one has committed.
The reasons as to why the Lenten season is observed for a period of 40 days are many. There is an important relation of the number 40 with the Holy Bible. We can find in the book of Exodus of Old Testament that Moses prayed to God staying on Mount Sinai for 40 days and after getting freedom from the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Israelites traveled for 40 years to reach their native land, Israel.
During Noah’s time, it rained continuously for 40 days and the earth was flooded. And before beginning His ministry, Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days in the desert. He was laid in the tomb for 40 hours after his death and before He was taken up to Heaven, He stayed with His people for 40 days.
Finally, the correct meaning of fasting and repentance can be realised when we sacrifice our desires and also share our things with those who are poor. This period makes one realise that death is certain, and hence, one must work for welfare of others and shun all wrong deeds. God has offered opportunities for all of us to prepare for the future, because one day we have to show our account of deeds to Him.