Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Some of us may be looking forward to the season with great anticipation. But others among us may be dreading what can feel like an extended season of depriving ourselves, being overly serious, and thinking negatively about ourselves. And after everything we’ve been through, that may be last thing we really need. You may want to take a moment now to consider what you are feeling about the coming Lenten season. And you may want to ask yourself what you really need to make Lent meaningful and life-giving for you this year.
One of the ways I like to think of Lent is as an extended examen. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Ignatian practice of examining ourselves daily in the light of Christ’s values and priorities. The heart of the examen is to take note of where we are doing well at aligning our lives with God’s reign and where there is room for improvement.
Lent, then, can be practised as a season of taking stock of our lives, noting where we are, where we want to be going, and how we might need to change course to get there. And after the last three years, I suspect we can all use time out to reflect and reset our faith, our perspectives, and our lives.
As a result of the pandemic, it can feel like so much of our humanity has been lost. So many of us have been overtaken by grief, anxiety, fear, physical distancing, polarisation, and emerging into a world that is very different from the one we left behind in lockdown. We have endured the greatest crisis of our generation. But now we have a unique opportunity to recapture our humanity, choose dignity and compassion, and move forward intentionally toward a gentler, kinder, and more united world. And, as followers of Christ, we may not have the power to change our world, but we do have the capacity to change ourselves—which positively affects our corner of the world.
The season of Lent is traditionally rooted in confession and repentance, which can sometimes feel negative and depressing- especially when we’ve already been through so much. But this is a very narrow view of this season. Lent is actually meant to be a time of reflection and preparation. It’s an invitation to enter the cycle of death and life through releasing what quenches our aliveness and receiving what raises us into a new fullness of life. It’s about getting ready, consciously and deliberately, for a new resurrection.
For decades, when I’ve tried to define my calling into ministry, I have turned to John 10:10: “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” And so I have expressed my life’s work as ‘seeking to be, and to help others to be, fully alive.’ This is, I believe, at the heart of the work we do in the Lenten season.
What does Lent mean to you? How has it helped you to experience a richer and more vibrant life? What do you find helpful about this season and what do you struggle with? And what would it mean for you to make this year’s Lenten journey one in which you recapture your essential, vibrant, creative and compassionate humanity? There’s still time to prepare yourself for a restorative and life-enriching Lent. Don’t miss this opportunity!
In the last few days of his life, Jesus moved from garden to garden from suffering to resurrection.
Join Christine Sine for a Lent retreat that reflects on this journey and prepares for the challenging week that follows Palm Sunday.