For many of us Christians, the time of the year has come to participate in the celebration of Lent. For most of us, Lent means giving up something that we enjoy, doing something good, and not eating meat on Fridays. Some of us see it as a waste and hate to make the sacrifice. However, Lent is a special celebration. Ash Wednesday begins Lent. Ash Wednesday is significant because the placing of ashes on the forehead is a sign of humility before God; a symbol of mourning and sorrow at the death that sin brings into the world. It not only prefigures the mourning at the death of Jesus Christ but also places the worshipper in a position to realize the consequences of sin. The Sundays during the Lenten season commemorate special events in the life of Our Lord Jesus, such as His transfiguration and His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week. Holy Week climaxes with Holy Thursday, on which Jesus celebrated the first Mass, Good Friday, on which He was crucified, and Holy Saturday — the last day of Lent —during which, Our Lord lay in the tomb before His resurrection on Easter Sunday, which is the first day after Lent.
Lent has traditionally been a time to reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to fast and to change one’s life direction as needed. It is also a time to do good works to bring healing and hope to our world. The 40 days before Easter are a symbol of the time Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness before His crucifixion. In addition to going deeper within, it can also be a time to live and preach hope, especially in times of darkness and despair which many people experience in our time. The basis of our hope is the great love God shows for us at all times, especially through the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation.
During Lent, we are invited to search deeply within our minds and hearts and to look at our own hopes for our own lives and for our world. People often ask: “How can we have hope in times like these?” If we watch TV or read the daily newspapers, there are endless stories of abuse and neglect, of children dying of hunger and disease, threats of more wars, and great lack of respect in civil discourse and shattered hopes and dreams for many families. Often out of chaos, we see people reaching out in care and compassion, working to change systems and structures that dehumanise and sharing their resources with those most in need. We can rely on God’s promise to redeem us from all our iniquities and to never let us walk alone. We know that where God is, there can always be hope. Lent can be a time when we listen more deeply to hear and respond to the voice of God within and around us. Jesus prayed in his deepest agony and it gave Him strength to continue the journey.
During Lent, let us open our minds and hearts to the transforming power of God’s presence and grace. We try to empty ourselves of our self-righteousness and pride and see how we can respond to God’s call in new ways by placing ourselves in God’s hands. Through God’s transforming power, we will bring deep hope into our own lives and our world.