Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Joy of Lent

Far from being a season of doom and gloom, Lent is a time of joyful new beginnings in faith. This season is sometimes referred to as “Easter’s Herald,” announcing as it does the fact that in God there is available to us a new start, a new possibility, a new day. That “day” for us is found in the Resurrection on Easter Day. To embrace this universal gift to all humanity, though, requires we set down the burden of sin and delusion we carry from day to day. That is a central part of Lent’s mission.

So much of what we carry with us keeps us from accepting New Life in Christ…

How many unseen
burdens do we carry?
“I can find peace through giving into my passions.” Wrong. Our desires, disconnected from communion in God, lead us toward selfishness and isolation. Greed, anger, sensuality, fear… these things lie close at hand when we let our desires lead us. The pleasure itself is not the issue: it is the way that pleasure blinds us to the misdirected ends we are choosing. Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death. (Proverbs 16:25)

“By focusing on the shortcomings of others, I can successfully ignore my own need for healing and transformation.” Wrong. Comparisons with others are always mistaken because we cannot fully know the other person’s situation. Just as we cannot be “radish Christians” – followers of Jesus on the outside but unchanged on the inside – neither may we substitute our false judgments of others for knowing and amending our true selves. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

“By being busy I will avoid painful reality.” Wrong. Denial—in whatever form it takes, whether it be addiction, burying one’s self in work or activity, emotional sterility, or indulging in immoral activities, or something else—simply puts off the inevitable to a time when we are likely less able to be able to respond with courage, vigor, and confidence. Christians are not called to live in the past or in some imagined future: we must live in the NOW of God. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. (Matthew 13:22)

These are just some of the ways we keep carrying the heavy load of sin and distortion in our life. When Christ announces the Gospel, he always begins with this word: Repent! He tells us that we must change direction, dropping the corrupt and soul-destroying burden of sin in the process: that is Lent’s challenge—and Lent’s joy!

St. Timothy’s is a healing, freeing, reconciling community in Christ. Lent is the season where “the rubber hits the road” in our response to Christ’s call and grace. From developing our Lenten Rule, through Ash Wednesday’s fast and liturgy of repentance, and during the 40 days of Lenten ascesis and mindfulness, to the solemn liturgies of Holy Week, this is the season when we live out with greatest intentionality what it means to lay down what keeps us enslaved to death and to take up the Cross of Life and follow where Jesus leads.

It is a joy to call you, my sisters and brothers, to this “dear feast of Lent” (as George Herbert calls it in his poem on the season). In truth, it is a time of rejoicing in finding and being found, just as the father says of the prodigal in Luke: “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:24). We are all that child, welcomed back into the embrace of our heavenly Father. Let us answer that call by observing a Holy Lent!

Rejoice this Lent: during this holy season we are bathed in Truth and renewed in Hope. It is, indeed, a New Day with God once more.

Under the mercy of Christ,


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