My catholic upbringing and the normalcy of the Liturgical Calendar has made it easy for me, as an Evangelical Christian (I prefer follower of Jesus), to enter into a Lenten Journey each year, starting with the observance of Ash Wednesday. I have rediscovered the rich and deep meanings in these practices and liturgies that are often taken for granted by many of my Catholic friends, and written off as meaningless, overlooked, or otherwise misunderstood by many Protestant Christians.
Ash Wednesday marks the start of my favorite time of year. I know, many may think this is a bit morbid…to look toward the passion and subsequent death of Jesus and call it a “favorite time”. But Ash Wednesday reminds me of my mortality, and Lent illuminates the places in my life and heart, and places in this world that need further transformation, and launches me into the journey of the pain Jesus experienced on my behalf. On our behalf.
For many Evangelical Christians, these are pretty dark places to linger for 40ish days. We prefer to start looking now towards the Resurrection of Christ….maybe being a bit silent on Maundy Thursday (often awkwardly silent for many) and considering the pain of Christ for a day (or a service) on Good Friday. Yet always hurriedly looking forward to celebrating on Easter – He is Risen! (Amen to the “Risen” part, for sure). The point is this: We don’t like pain and lament. But we MUST spend time here…because dwelling in this place helps us to fully grasp the breadth of God’s love for us…for our whole world.
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” – Luke 22:41-42 (ESV)
Jesus, submitting to the will of the Father, had to die. He had to die because of our individual sinfulness and the sins of this world past, present and future. He HAD to die. And Lent is a reminder for us of what we must die to…and that which must die in our world.
This year, let us not be quick to only set our sights towards the Resurrection. Let us be willing to linger for a time in the pain of Jesus for the sake of each one of us. Here we will newly discover the significance of Life on the other side of the Cross.