Dear family and friends
We have recently gone through Epiphany/Ordinary Times and been introduced to Jesus in many different settings. Then we came to Shrove Tuesday ate out pancakes, took stock of ourselves, confessed our sins, received absolution and penances to do during Lent, Then we arrived at Ash Wednesday and got faced with our own mortality and the fact we will all one day die and our earthly bodies return to dust. Now we have come to Lent. So why Lent and where is all this taking us to? What is its intended purpose and why do it at all?
Some may say in Lent we give up something special that we really like for the duration of the season. Others may say itâ€™s about remembering Jesus 40 day fast in the Wilderness. Still others might say it is about doing the Stations of the Cross and walking with him along the Via Dolorosa suffering in spirit what he did on that fateful day. Others especially monastics it may be about special Lenten practices or devotions. Some might think its about suffering and feeling pain. Many seek to have themselves nailed to a cross like Christ was, or either whip themselves or have themselves whipped until blood is gushing from their wounds inflicted on their bodies. Many of those may be of some value during our Lenten journey. However if that is all we do where do we end up at? We end up at the tomb brokenhearted, full of despair and hopelessness. All our dreams, ambitions, lie buried with the dead body of Christ. It seems like itâ€™s all over and we can go no further. Guess what we canâ€™t go any further in our old man/nature and we canâ€™t hold unto our old wineskins. Therefore Good Friday is the end of the road for us. That my friend is why we need Lent.
For you see Lent in my opinion has one purpose. It is to bring change, death, and the eradication of the old person and our old wineskins. Christ tells us in the Gospel of Matthew
â€śNor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preservedâ€ť. (Matthew 9:17)
Here we see why we need Lent and why I believe we canâ€™t forgo it. We need Lent to destroy any bit of worldliness, selfishness, unkindness, hate, lust, bigotry, prejudice, and any of a myriad of things in our lives which are displeasing to God. The old person cannot ever receive the New Wine of the Holy Spirit as it will break him and the wine will be spilled, ruined and lost. Therefore we need Lent to transform us into new creations and new wineskins. We need to also walk along the Via Dolorosa with Christ realizing that we too are walking to our own deaths. At Calvary it is to realize we also are hanging there with Christ and dying. At the tomb we see our old self and old wineskin buried in the tomb of Christ never to be resurrected again or used against us. Then on Holy Saturday we get to watch at the tomb thinking of all that has happened. Then on Easter Morning we will rise and walk out of the tomb as new creations in Christ and as new wineskins that are able to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit in the forms of the resurrected Christ of Easter and in the form of the dove of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
All I have shared thus far is a prelude to where I believe God through Lent wants to take us to. The next three seasons are Easter and in some traditions Pentecost and Ordinary Times. Easter is about the resurrection of Christ the Prince of Peace. Pentecost is about the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove which is a symbol of peace. Ordinary Times is about our ordinary lives where nothing spectacular is happening but its just the ordinary day of getting up, showering, dressing, going to work, coming home, cooking meals, paying bills, shopping, going to the doctorâ€™s or the mechanics too get the car worked on, squeeze in some time somehow for family and friends, get some sleep only to get up the next day to do it all over again. Somewhere hopefully we may find some time for God.
Lent however leads us to be able to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit. That in turn enables us to become ambassadors of peace to our world which I believe Easter and Pentecost are all about. It is for us to take the peace of Christ which resides in each of us and share it with all whom we encounter. It is to be broken bread and poured out wine to the hungry so they can come to our table eat and be drawn to Christ. It is to be the hands and feet of Christ to the hungry, the marginalized, the hurting, the abandoned, the rejects of society and the church and all who in anyway need to meet the Living Christ. To those who need to know they are loved, that they are beautiful, they are worthy and they can become somebody in Christ. It is to let them know we are their friends and there to help them in whatever way we can especially to help them get back on the path to God. It is to bring peace to the troubled person reconciling them back to the one that loves them making them to be at one with God, themselves and their world.
In closing then perhaps far from seeing Lent as a time of gloom and doom we should see it as a time to get excited. We get to clean house of all the junk we have collected over the last year. We get to shed our old skins like a snake does and come forth as new creations and wineskins filled with new wine. Thus we become the triumphant church of God which will never be defeated, overcome by the enemy or anyone else, nor which can be stopped or shut up. We will be heard, we will win and our cause will succeed and the visible kingdom of God will reign over all the earth in peace, harmony, love., and everything in balance as God always intended it to be. Any thoughts are welcomed.