Taking Lent Seriously
As we approach Lent this year, which starts on February 10th this year, it is on my mind that we should be giving up something substantial in our lives, something that has real meaning and could make a meaningful difference in your life. And I am not talking about chocolate! Unless we’re also giving up the underlying hunger for things that are supposed to fill us, but don’t. I’m thinking about something more like giving up gossiping, or self-deprecating or putting others down–things which are the opposite of love.
Or how about giving up arguing with your spouse or child? Or changing your attitudes towards strangers or Muslims or another race—seeing them as human beings, just like you?
This Lent let’s not make a trivial gift of solidarity with Jesus’ suffering, but really put our hearts and souls and minds and bodies into the choice that needs to be made. Try listening to God and seeing what he wants you to give up.
It is so easy to make a token gesture and feel like we’ve really done something. This is how the Gospel has gotten so watered down over the centuries.
Take our modern insistence on believing in Jesus Christ as the son of God—justification by faith! That’s supposed to be the opposite of justification by works! But really, they cannot be separated. So what if you believe in Jesus, but your actions belie your belief; if you’re not willing to put your faith into action—helping the poor, visiting the sick and prisoners. Or showing love to your enemies. Or walking the extra mile when asked to go one. Or giving your cloak, too. I think all of Jesus’ examples are metaphors, that is they stand in for helping in any way, really giving of ourselves to others.
Jesus isn’t calling us to sit in our pews and believe in him on Sundays and the rest of the week pay more attention to the world’s ways than to God’s. Jesus’ message is radical in all its aspects—we are to love God with all of ourselves, all the time—heart, soul, mind and strength(body)—and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. He expects us to take in God’s love for us so that we can then pour it out to those in need. It’s a both/and proposition—to believe in God and to show love to our neighbors. It’s faith /and works. It’s about totality—all of us giving back what we’ve been given.
And it requires all of us in the giving—not just in writing a check, or in handing out food, but our total selves engaged with the people we serve. We’re to be loving—at peace, with joy and patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, with self-control—towards all we meet.
We are called to be pro-active, not just wait for the neighbors to come to us. We are to get out in the neighborhoods or somewhere in the world that matters to us and do everything we can to help the people there.
Jesus has sent us out into the world to be his hands and feet, his voice and desires, his love and forgiveness now.
The 40 days of Lent is enough time to affect a change, a real change in our lives. And when the 40 days is done, we don’t have to go back to our old habits. We can just continue with what is already sanctified in us.
But really Jesus is always asking us to give up the big stuff in our lives, not the nickel and dime stuff. He wants us to give our attachment to the world’s ways. He wants us to learn how to love. He wants us to put God first. So let’s say a big YES to him this year and make Lent a meaningful season.
Let’s start this Lent with all of ourselves, giving up something we’re holding onto that stands between us and loving God and our neighbors. Let’s make a significant sacrifice that will make an enormous difference in us. What do we have to lose? Only something that is getting in our way with God anyway.
Questions to ponder over the week: What is God asking me to give up for this Lenten Season? Am I willing to let it go? Will I make a meaningful trial for these 40 days, putting my heart and soul and mind into it? Can I even imagine what life would be like without my attachment to _________(whatever God is asking me to give up)? And do I see how that might really improve my life/my state of being? If I don’t usually give up something for Lent, would I still ask God the question? And do what he asks?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who take Jesus’ suffering seriously. May we be servants of God like he was. May we live what we believe, so that others can see God’s love in every aspect of our lives.
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!” is up on Amazon. Check it out under my full name, Patricia Said Adams or Patricia Adams, if you’re interested. If you’ve already read it, I would love for you to post a rating or comment on Amazon or Good Reads–the ratings bring in readers.
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