The word “Lent” comes from the ancient English word for “lengthening” – the lengthening of days, symbolizing the pattern of new life which emerges during the season of Spring. Flowers, new-born lambs, baby chicks and Easter eggs all speak of the springing up of new life. The Church uses reminders of life around us as signs and symbols of the New Life won for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Traditionally during Lent, penance, fasting, abstinence, and other spiritual disciplines were the outward sign of the inner conversion needed during the life of the Christian as a preparation for the high point of the Easter Eucharist. We remember the forty years the people of Israel wandered in the desert in search of the Promised Land. The forty days and forty nights of the storms and floods in the story of Noah’s Ark. But most of all, we remember the forty days that Jesus went into the desert before his public ministry, and all of these set our pattern for lent.
In the desert Christ was tempted and struggled to understand what he was being called to do, who he was called to be. We are all on a journey. We are on the journey of faith to a deeper relationship with God in and through Jesus Christ. It is easy to get distracted and confused on that journey. On Ash Wednesday we put ashes on our foreheads as an outer reminder that we need to “Turn away from sin and believe in the gospel”. The ashes remind us to “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return”. Lenten practices are meant to be aids in this inner journey which we are all called to make; particularly prayer, reading scripture and attending Church.
Lent is ultimately about those words from the book of Joel: “Come back to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning” (2:12). This is a time to renew our relationship with God. To pray more, to reflect more and above all to love more.
This past year has been a year of lent. We have lived in a way that is different. We have served and cared for others. We have sacrificed so much. But after lent comes Easter… With Easter comes the gift of God to go out into the world and make disciples… So, what will you do when this Lenten period comes to an end? Maybe now is the time to think about how you can introduce other people to Church other people to Christ… When we come to Easter and Pentecost when life starts to, hopefully, become more normal again what ministry is God calling you to as you emerge from the desert?
May You be Truly Blessed…