In a couple of weeks(or less), Lent will begin or as the gospel reminds us ; “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,take up his cross, and follow me.” Along with prayer, the other two aspects of Lent are its fasting and abstinence, and alms giving. It is that fasting, abstinence, or giving up something that resonates with Jesus command for us to deny our self. Following that denial comes the second command of “follow me.” The odd part about denying oneself two or so weeks before Lent is the way we, or at least me, goes about it. Before that giving up, that denial, comes the ritual of indulgence. Sure, the excuse in the past was that certain foods had to be used up before the Lenten fast but today that fast today is more symbolic. Today it is no more than giving up a couple of meals and maybe a couple days without meat. That is hardly enough to explain not just Mardi Gras, Carnival, or even Fat Tuesday. Even without looking at those formal celebrations, how difficult is it to give something up without overindulging ‘just a little’ before hand? What those three traditions really seem to highlight is the difficulty of denying ourselves, of surrendering, and of following Christ. They are the noise we make before we do something we should have been doing all along. They become a bit of a reminder of not how we should deny ourselves, but more about that state of denial that is so easy to follow. Perhaps there is a good reason for todays Mardi Gras, and Carnival, and Fat Tuesday, and those personal pre-Lent traditions. They are a reminder to leave that state of denial behind, they become a reminder of our weaknesses, our crosses, and become a reminder of that need to follow Christ. They are the very good reasons to embrace Lent.