Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. Luke 4:1-2
Growing up in the Baptist Church, we didn’t celebrate or think much about Lent. That was for Catholics or Episcopalians. In recent years, I have grown to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of Lent, those 40 days leading up to Easter. I don’t necessarily “give anything up” it’s more like scouring out a little space in my soul that says, “These days are different, significant……set apart, pay attention to what the Holy Spirit might be preparing you for.” Like a Spiritual yield sign if you will.
At any rate, I will be doing something I have never done before on this blog. I am going to really, really try to post something each of the 40 days leading up to Easter.
Don’t worry, the readings will be short and the intent will be to lead us all closer to the Cross, right along with Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I have felt like I have been in and out of the wilderness ever since January 4. Thankfully, I have companions in it and for that I am extremely thankful. What’s your wilderness today? Be comforted, God is walking with you.
It is necessary that at the beginning of this fast, the Lord should show Himself to us in His mercy. The purpose of Lent is not so much expiation, to satisfy the divine justice, as a preparation to rejoice in His love. And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of His mercy—a gift which we receive in so far as we open our hearts to it, casting out what cannot remain in the same room with mercy.
Now one of the things we must cast out first of all is fear. Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves. If we were terrified of God as a terrible judge, we would not confidently await His mercy, or approach Him trustfully in prayer. Our peace, our joy in Lent are a guarantee of grace.
And in laying upon us the light cross of ashes, the Church desires to take off our shoulders all other heavy burdens—the crushing load of worry and guilt, the dead weight of our own self-love. We should not take upon ourselves a “burden” of penance and stagger into Lent as if we were Atlas, carrying the whole world on his shoulders. Thomas Merton, an excerpt from his essay, “Ash Wednesday.”