For He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are dust – Psalm 103:14
Today is the beginning of the Lent season, a period of steadfast prayer, repentance, self-denial and giving, that starts with Ash Wednesday and lasts till Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday. Lent is one of the earliest traditions of the Christian Church, encouraging the faithful towards self-examination and penitence.
While arguments can be given in favour or against observing Lent, there is no denying that repentance and renewal is something that all of us need. Periods for intentional spiritual introspection and contemplation are vital for spiritual well-being and for a closer walk with God.
Lent can be an occasion for us to focus on the life, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour and in response to turn away from sin in repentance towards faith in His atoning work on the cross. The cross levels us all, whether we observe lent or not.
It can be a season of renewal, a time of deeper fellowship with God and a time to let the gospel make its way deeper into our lives.
Many people give up on certain things during Lent, mostly non-vegetarian food. Others may give up on a certain habit or attitudes. The idea of fasting or self-denial is inextricably linked to Lent. However, without focusing on the grace of God, all fasting or exercise in self-denial can end up being an empty tradition that simply makes us feel righteous or spiritually proud, thus defeating the purpose of Lent.
Today is the first day of the Lenten season and is popularly known as Ash Wednesday. Observed by many Christians around the world where the faithful apply ash on their foreheads as a symbolic reminder that humankind is dust and to dust shall we return. (Ecclesiastes 3:20, Genesis 3:19)
Ash Wednesday does give us a perspective on our lives and we start to see the world around us in the light of eternity. One must never forget his or her own fragility, (Psalm 103:14) which in turn always helps to bring to our notice the only sure foundation, the only true shelter, the only solid rock, the only eternal. God!
And that is the point of Lent: to re-orient our lives God-ward. To replace the things in our lives which have taken the place of God, to re-discover our First Love and cling to Him, His Word and His Mission. To deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him during and beyond the season of Lent.
By – Rev. Vijayesh Lal