Fat Tuesday?

In Lent 24 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

Today is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Crowds and crowds of people are celebrating debauchery in New Orleans, Venice, and Rio de Janeiro, in the most famous international festivals. Mardi Gras actually begins on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Lenten sacrifices and fasting of the Lenten season.

Tomorrow begins the Lenten commemoration. It originally began a season of preparation for baptism, but it has become more generally a time of reflection, repentance, and fasting. On Ash Wednesday, people are anointed with ashes on their forehead as a reminder of the fragile and temporal nature of life.

It strikes me as a contradiction that two such opposite commemorations could exist side-by-side in the Christian calendar. One advocating the abandonment of virtue, self-control, and wisdom. The other calling us to self-control and self-discipline. I do not find such an oxymoron in all of scripture. In fact, Paul the apostle wrote to the Corinthian church about the demands of a life of discipleship. He said:

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Lent is the experience of giving more attention and focus to the life of following Jesus. What is true about discipleship during Lent should also be true before and after Lent. For Jesus, it was the disciplines of his wilderness experience that prepared him for the rest of his life.

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