Isn’t that always the question? As if that is the reason for the season. Growing up, everything I remember about Lent circled around the acts of self-denial – what food, entertainment, or habit one would give up, and how hard it was to deny oneself of that thing. It was not always made clear that the denial was meant to help one think about God and Christ’s sacrifice.
Of course it’s understandable that the deeper meaning of Lent can be missed. Even elsewhere in this bulletin we mention the religious traditions, rituals, and “Lenten obligations,” which are easier to promote, understand, and implement than spirituality and faith. We Catholics understand rules. It is far easier to tell kids (and ourselves) to obey rules than to explain to them why we should desire to act rightly. We can end up following the rules simply because…well, because that is what we do, that is how we think of religion. In Lent, too often we are denying ourselves for the sake of denial. We give up chocolate or Facebook thinking that act of denial is the purpose of Lent. And we end up missing the point.
Lent isn’t about denial. It is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection by endeavoring to become more Christ-like ourselves. Transformation is about letting ourselves be filled with God’s presence so that we can be shaped by God’s grace. But we have to make room for God’s grace. We have to empty ourselves to make room for God – and that may mean not being current on The Voice, giving up chocolate, or whatever else takes up time, space, and energy in your life. And so we give up things/habits as a way of beginning the transformation.
In our faith tradition, this process has a word: kenosis – the “self-emptying” of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will. Denying ourselves in order to allow God to fill us. The Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving help prepare us to be transformed. We deny ourselves so that we can be reborn as new creations – to live more fully as the Kingdom citizens God desires us to be – to go and do the good that God would have us do.
Previously, I have written about being intentional in one’s life of prayer and about making a place and space in your life to be in relationship with God. Once Ash Wednesday passes, what is your Lenten plan to make room in your life to be filled with God’s grace? Be intentional! Be with God.