Rebuttal: Lent is a time to pause and reflect on your life and relationship with God!
It should not be hard to believe that there were disagreements among the bishops and believers in the first centuries of Christianity. Jesus warned his disciples that there would be problems in the future, and false prophets would come disrupt the harmony. But he also told his apostles that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, would come to be their guide and reminder of all he commanded, (Jn 14:16). Its unimaginable any human is capable of processing all of God’s plans in an instant. This is why Jesus left the Holy Spirit to guide his Church until he comes again. The first bishops and early Fathers of the church had to sort out the doctrines and commands. This obviously took time, and is still to this very day forward to develop, Lent is no exception.
Studying the early Christians, and the bible, you will learn that fasting has always been part of the faith, “He fasted for forty days and forty nights”, (Matthew 4:2). Fasting is a form of discipline, where by denying the gratification of the flesh, the spirit is made stronger or moves ahead. Remember, we are called to walk in the spirit and not in the flesh, (Galatians 5:16-18). Fasting is also an act of humility, for without humility you cannot please God, (1 Peter 5:5). It is usual practice for the faithful leaders to call the whole community to a fast, for the purpose of returning to God and for corporal works of mercy (alms giving), (Isaiah 58:5-8; Ezra 8:21; Luke 18:12). But when you do fast you must do so in secret, for it is there your father hears your prayer,” But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you”, (Matthew 6:6).
Throughout the beginning of the Church, Christians considered every Sunday, the day of which the bread was broken, to be paschal. This was representative of the New Covenant Passover Meal. Jesus’ proclamation on the Old Covenant Passover Feast, which is now call Holy Thursday, concludes the old and makes all things new, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Luke 22:20).
Sunday is the day of Resurrection ”That he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures," (1 Corn 15:4); it is now the new day of the Lord and the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ and transferred to Sunday to be the day of rest and worship. “On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread” (Acts 20:7). In 107 AD IGNATIUS said, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week. IN 150 AD JUSTIN said, but Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our savior on the same day rose from the dead. As Catholics, we celebrate the tradition of the Sabbath day (Sunday), each week.
Now that we have a glimpse into the development of Catholic Sunday worship, and some evidence to the necessity for fasting, let’s tie in the yearly practice and devotion of Lent. I personally consider Lent a time of personal reflection on my spiritual journey. I have found tremendous spiritual growth during an engaged Lent, it’s my reset button for my spiritual life - a time to recalibrate and focus back in.
Lent as it is known today, in form and practice, has developed over time. It is not practiced the same in every Catholic Church; it depends on which Catholic Rite is observed. Fasting before every Sunday of Lent, beginning on Friday has always been part of Lenten worship. We begin to fast on Friday to observe the day of sorrows, the Crucifixion of our Lord. Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Pope Leo the First, called it the 'greatest feast' and furthered his point by saying, Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the center of the greatest part of the ecclesiastical year. In the early Church, bishops were in disagreement of how long believers should fast, both for the weekly Paschal meal and the yearly anniversary Paschal meal- Easter. These disagreements were settled with prayer, fasting and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Notice, Easter must be celebrated on the same Sunday, in every Catholic Church, across the globe. Easter is also the oldest feast of the Christian Church, as old as Christianity - it provides the connecting link between the Old and New Testaments.
A letter of St. Irenæus shows that the diversity of practice regarding Easter had existed, at least from the time of Pope Sixtus (c. 120). In determining this period of forty days the example of Moses, Elias, and Christ must have exercised a predominant influence, but it is also possible that the fact was borne in mind that Christ lay forty hours in the tomb. But throughout the Orient generally, with some few exceptions, the same arrangement prevailed as St. Athanasius's "Festal Letters" show us to have obtained in Alexandria; namely, the six weeks of Lent were only preparatory to a fast of exceptional severity maintained during Holy Week. This is enjoined by the "Apostolic Constitutions" (V, xiii), and presupposed by St. Chrysostom. But the number forty, having once established itself, produced other modifications. To many, it seemed necessary that there should not only be fasting during forty days but forty full fasting days and nights. None the less St. Gregory writing to St. Augustine of England laid down the rule, "We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs." This decision was afterwards enshrined in the "Corpus Juris", and must be regarded as the common law of the Church. In the United States the Holy See grants faculties whereby working men and their families may use flesh meat once a day throughout the year, except Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, and the vigil of Christmas. The only payment imposed for all of these mitigations are the exclusion during Lent against partaking of both fish and flesh at the same meal.