February 12, 2013 by eneubauer
Today marks the eve of the Lenten season and for that I am grateful. Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and the first Sunday in Lent all mark the beginning of a wonderful season of personal, spiritual preparation. Today, as we reflect on John the Baptist’s words, may we be mindful of his call to, “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3 ESV)
The context of this passage is obvious – John the Baptist was baptizing those in the Jordan River who desired to repent of their sin in light of the fact that Jesus was about the appear on the scene to begin his public ministry and eventually baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit and fire. In light of this passage and others we understand that our Lenten season is a call for ALL Christians to prepare for the upcoming Easter celebration – our recognition of Christ’s saving work on the cross as He bore the sins of the world in order that all humanity may recognize their need for reconciliation and through that recognition enter into the joy of salvation. As you prepare to celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord think on these things:
First, Lent is our call to reflect on and / or recommit to our baptismal promises. This is not just for the Candidate or Catechumen going through the RCIA process but for all Christians seeking true reconciliation with Jesus and strength for the journey ahead. It is our collective call to seek out, through interior self-examination, those areas within our lives that are hindering the development of an intimate relationship with Jesus. What sins have created a roadblock against God’s plan or will for your life? What is it that you can’t seem to overcome or whom can’t you forgive? This is your time to examine self (not others), repent, confess, and be reconciled to our Lord. This is not a rush process – hence the 40+ days of Lent gives one plenty of time to clear ones conscience.
Second, Lent is a time of increased fervor in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our commitment to fasting or abstaining for certain foods creates the needed space and time for increased vigilance in prayer. Some complain that fasting is impractical and cannot be done in a world / society / culture that seems to enjoy living at a break-neck pace. That being said fasting is a call to slow down during Lent so that one is able to calm the mind and examine self. Fasting (sparse and plain meals / limited volume and / or eliminating regular meals for a soft or liquid diet for a period of time) will help the body conform to the will and spirit. My experience with the discipline of fasting is that the benefits out weigh the challenges. For healthy adults fasting has significant spiritual / physical advantages that cannot be underestimated. Abstaining from certain foods, activities and actions can also enable one to create the needed space for quiet prayer, reflection, and self-examination. Fasting enables the individual the needed space and time to develop our prayer life. In addition, this time of self-examination and spiritual preparation would not be complete without increased almsgiving – our financial, in kind donations or charitable work benefiting the least of these among us. Lent will not be complete without these three elements.
Finally, the Lenten season would not be complete without a clear vision of the, “Why behind the what.” One of my favorite sayings this statement reveals the true meaning behind the actions of Lent. We participate, whole-heartedly, in this season because of the gravity of action and meaning behind our Lords work on the cross. There is a real depth of meaning in Christ’s act of salvation and its implications for all humanity. This historic reality is not something that can be explained away, a figment of religious imagination, or legend – this was God’s act of sacrifice once and for all time creating a pathway into true and authentic relationship with our Creator. This relationship is a sign of what is to come – eternal life in the very presence of God. In humble recognition of this truth I will spend time each day reflecting on that wonderful (albeit painful) action our Lord willingly took on our behalf. I want nothing to stand in my way of obtaining intimate relationship as I work out my salvation with fear and trembling – especially self.
May this season me marked by renewal, rediscovery, reconciliation and reunion.