The Meaning of Lent

BROWNSVILLE — Bishop Daniel Flores of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville boiled the meaning of Lent down to three central ideas aimed at helping people reconnect with each other.

Flores celebrated an Ash Wednesday Mass at UTRGV’s Brownsville campus before an audience of perhaps 60. Campus Catholic Ministries organized the event.

Catholic and other Christian churches observe Lent during the 40 days preceding Easter by fasting, praying and alms giving. Ash Wednesday marks the holiday’s beginning.

Traditionally, believers will fast by giving up something for Lent, but there is more to it than that, Flores said.

“Lent is not about proving how strong we are in the sense of being able to resist temptations,” Flores said. Rather it is about “recognizing how interconnected we are, because not seeing the needs of our neighbor rubs against the Christian grain.”

Mercy is being able to respond to the needs of the person standing next to you, alms giving “is a way of recognizing that what I have is not just for me,” while fasting recognizes the fact that “no creature save the human being ever said ‘I’m not going to eat that even though I’m hungry,’” Flores said.

“Holiness touched the Earth once, and from him it flows,” the bishop added.

He offered this advice: “Try to be a generous person who recognizes the needs of people around you. … As a practical matter, try to improve your personal relations.

“Be resistant to that first impulse. When someone says something ugly to you, that doesn’t mean you have to say something ugly back. We all need to be more conscious of how we treat each other. Start with your family and friends.”