When we make resolutions, it’s easier to keep them if we are doing them with others.
Lent is a time when we as a church family, resolve to rid ourselves of anything that is not of Christ, and to become more Christlike. In other words, to be the best person God wants us to be.
The ashes that we receive on Ash Wednesday is like a pledge card. We pledge to rid ourselves of any hate and evil within us. The ashes do not do anything of themselves. We bless them because our conversion is a holy enterprise. If we are sincere, then we have to be willing to change our lives so God can work with and through us. That might take more than giving up chocolate or alcohol.
Years ago, Lent was a time to give up something – candy, movies, alcohol, dancing. It was a time to go to Church more often. We gave up something because we really needed to slim down anyway, to stop drinking, to save money. True, many things we did were good, but did they change us? Did they have a lasting effect beyond Lent? Did they make us better Christians, better men and women? The prophet Joel calls us “to change our heart, not our garment.”
Lent is a time of conversion. It’s a time to reflect on how much God loves us the way we are. Our God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and full of kindness. We take time to remember that we are made in the image of God. We are called to project, or reflect, the presence of God in our lives.
Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen makes a distinction between unconditional love and unconditional approval. He says, “We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart.
“Evil is the absence of God’s love. Evil does not belong to God. God’s unconditional love means that God continues to love us even when we say, think or do evil things. God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. God never stops loving us even when what we do saddens God. That truth will help us to return to God’s ever-present love.”
Lent is a time to get in touch with our dark side. We know the power of sin, how it keeps us from being the persons God wants us to be. Despite our sins, God continues to love us hoping that we will change our lives.
Evangelist Billy Graham talks about a total conversion: “True conversion will involve the mind, the affection, and the will. There have been thousands of people who have been intellectually converted to Christ … but they have never been really converted to him.”
Lent is a great opportunity to change, to grow. Lent is a good time to forgive that person who hurt us, to share with a homeless person, to mend relationships. Lent is the right moment to take time for someone we love (or we do not love), to open our hearts to God. We need to be self-giving, not just giving up things. Love is the solution to sin in our world.
Sometimes we go through the motions and forget why we are doing our Lenten observances. Lent should move us to see God’s love again, to find a new passion for life, to deepen our prayer life. Lent invites us to pray, to fast, to give alms, to renew our relationship with God, self, neighbor and the world.
I hope you have an exceptional Lent.
Posted on Fri, March 3, 2017
by The Lafourche Gazette