Charles C. Camosy & Sherif K. Moussa on Lent’s Countercultural Call is as Old as the Church—and More Necessary Than Ever

A worshiper prays during an Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, on March 6, 2019. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season when Christians prepare for Easter through acts of penitence, abstinence and prayer. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Charlie Camosy, is professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University. Sherif K. Moussa is a litigator in private practice in New York City whose practice focuses on civil rights, special education law and disability law. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


Lent is almost upon us, and for many Christians, it cannot come soon enough. Our hamster-wheel daily experience of deference and service to our consumerist use-and-throwaway culture has Americans longing for the shift to the countercultural lifestyle that Lent brings with it.

As my co-author for this column and I were discussing our need for Lent’s respite from the relentlessness of contemporary existence, we stumbled on a poignant and prophetic message from before either of us was born. In 1974, Pope St. Paul VI offered a message for Lent in which he called on fellow Christians to make an intentional and hard “break” from “too exclusive attachment to our worldly goods.”

Paul in turn invoked the words of St. Basil the Great, the bishop of Capadoccia, in modern-day Turkey, who died in 379. If we keep our abundant resources to ourselves, Basil insisted, we are actually keeping them unjustly from those who do not have enough.

Pope Paul cited Basil’s very hard sayings to reinforce that we sin in both “mind and heart” as long as we “refuse millions of our brothers and sisters the things that their human development demands.”

Indeed, Paul VI appeared to anticipate our current era of inequality, a phenomenon that was just then getting underway. He charged us to “reflect at a time when hatred and conflict are caused by the injustice of those who hoard when others have nothing, by those who put their own tomorrow before their neighbor’s today, and by those who through ignorance or selfishness refuse to give up what they do not need for the sake of those who lack the bare necessities of life.”

For centuries, then, the church has taken Lent as not only a restorative time out, but a chance to reassess how we, in our “normal” lives, contribute to the inequities of our culture.

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Source: Religion News Service