“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
As a child, the beginning of Lent was really all about Shrove Tuesday – Ash Wednesday never entered into the picture! Pancakes (crepes) were what it was all about.
But Ash Wednesday is the true beginning of Lent. Lent is really one of the key Christian traditions, a period in the calendar where followers of Christ prepare themselves for Easter, and all that it represents.
Most of us are more familiar with Advent. Advent is celebration of anticipation. That’s easy in the 21st Century with the thick layer of commercialism that overlays it. We look forward, expectant, for the coming Christ, but also the presents under the tree!
Lent has no such drivers. Neither is it commercially marketable.
But Lent is core to our Christian journey – because of what Christ accomplished; it’s core to every one of us.
Advent is outward anticipation; Lent, though, is about inward reflection, an honest reflection of who I am in the light of God. This is not something we should fear, but rather something we should embrace. We embrace it because it is the doorway to grace in our lives, increasing grace, growing grace. We look toward the cross – but we then look beyond it.
Modern life does not deal well with despair and sadness, which is an element in Lent, but it does not stop there – it points to the hope in the resurrection.
During the Lent season, we come to terms, or at least we grapple with, the human condition, my human condition.
The Cross is where our faith stands when all other faiths fail. Christ’s sacrifice and his subsequent resurrection are the true “cruxes” of the Christian faith. Without one there would be no salvation, without the other, no hope.
The Cross is, in many ways, the ultimate “reality check.” It confirms that sin really has a consequence. And reminds us that Adam and Eve’s ‘fall’ was unbelievably costly.
What does all this mean for us? What is Lent really all about for me? In a nutshell, it is about opening our hearts to God’s refining. It gives us an opportunity to be honest with ourselves—a focused opportunity for personal reflection. We can do this any time of the year, and day of the year, any hour of the day. But Lent gives us a focal time, a hook, a timeframe, a shared journey with the community of Christian brothers and sisters.
But it’s not about dredging up things for which we can berate ourselves. This is about putting ourselves at the feet of Jesus, putting ourselves into a listening, penitential mode, that invites the Lord to walk with us as He chooses, as we open ourselves and make ourselves vulnerable to him.
Lent is a wonderful opportunity to enter into the journey Christ took to the cross. It’s a journey through suffering to hope. And it ends with the wonder and freedom of Easter.