As February days gradually lengthen, there is, even in the midst of winter, a hint of the promise of spring with its quickening of life after a winter-long slumber. Lent is a hopeful season of the church year which mirrors the promise of renewal seen in the natural world. During the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, Christians reflect on God’s unconditional, sacrificial love and embrace the promise of eternal life.
The looming shadow of the cross at the end of this liturgical season is a tragic reminder of humanity’s timeless capacity for inhumanity. Yet it is also a triumphant reminder of the victory of life and love over death and hatred. Weekly Lenten scripture lessons remind us how God’s love transformed the cross – a symbol of shame, death, and punishment – into a potent symbol of grace, redemption, and hope. It is fitting that Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day this year for Lent reminds us of God’s love for us.
In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
– 1st Letter of John, chapter 4, verse 10
Lent is also a perfect time to re-order our lives. From time to time all of us need to pause, take stock, and clear out that which is superfluous in order to make way for that which is truly essential. That goes not only for our stuff – our material possessions – but also for our sense of self, our value system, and our priorities. It’s all too easy to base our self-understanding on others’ views of us, our value system on that promoted by the culture around us, while we forget what is most important to our well-being in the face of daily demands on our time and attention.
Lenten spiritual disciplines of self-denial and meditation aim to make space in our hectic modern lives for God. Paradoxically, it is in surrendering ourselves to God and offering up our lives to Christ that we find our true selves. As Jesus once said, “… those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose or forfeit themselves?”
I invite you to respond to God’s love during these forty days by thinking carefully about your
relationship with Christ.
- What thoughts, words, and actions honor him?
- What in your life is incompatible with being a follower of Jesus?
These questions are intended to promote self-awareness rather than guilt. May the insights you gain in pondering these questions inform your spiritual transformation and promote faithful action on Christ’s behalf.