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How Long

Each year, I try to tailor our family Lenten observance to make it meaningful for all ages. The Church says no meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. Since some of my children could go the whole year without meat. I say to my littles, "No meat or chocolate." The response is akin to, "How will we survive?!" The Church says adults have to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I say to my littles, "No snacks." They can eat as much as they want at mealtime, but they have to last the four hours in between meals without chips or a pudding cup.

Ash Wednesday was pretty rough, all things considered, but they managed. Today is another "no chocolate" day, and there was some grumbling involved. "Again? If the Church says we have to give up meat, why do we have to give up chocolate, too?"

Because Lent should be meaningful. If I give up all of my chocolate and snacks for Jesus, I am saying I love Jesus more than chocolate and snacks. If chocolate and snacks are symbols for all earthly pleasures, then I am saying I love Jesus more than anything the world can offer me.

They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. "Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?" Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping penance: that a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Isa 58: 2-7

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