Wednesday 22 February 2023

Have a happy, holiday Lent!

A reflection given at St Mary's, Nenagh on Ash Wednesday, 22nd February 2023

I’m not going to preach a sermon, but I do want to say a few words about the meaning of Lent.

The Church invites us, as we heard in the introduction to this service, ‘to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word’.

But to many in the wider society we inhabit, Lenten fasting and self-denial seem plain daft, perverse even.

‘Oh what a bore!’, I hear them say, ‘Why all this guilt-inducing, self-flagellating, call to gloomy repentance? Go away, and let us get on with our busy lives.’

There is no shortage of people to mock those of us who take Lent seriously.

My answer to them is this: Lent is not a burden – it’s not meant to be a burden, but a gift. Lent is a holiday, a holiday from the everyday, and an opportunity!

·        Lent is an opportunity for me to liberate myself for a while from one of those little habits of luxury that can so easily become addictive bad habits. It is a chance to prove to myself that I am more than the sum of my desires. And after the fast, thank God, I shall relish what I denied myself even more.

·        Lent is an opportunity to spend more time with God, to feed my spiritual side, my soul. God is the great lover of souls, but often I feel too busy to respond to his love. There are so many ways to spend time with God that it is difficult to choose, from prayer, or reading scripture, or some other worthwhile book I wouldn’t otherwise find time to pick up, to joining with others in a Lenten course.

·        Lent is an opportunity to live more simply for a while and enjoy the present moment. Heaven knows, most of us could do with a break from the pressures to be busier and busier to acquire and consume more and more. Lent is also the time of lengthening days and burgeoning spring – let us enjoy what God has given us - for free.

·        Lent is an opportunity to be as generous as can be from the surplus of good things God has given me. There is nothing so pleasurable and good for the soul than to help someone in need or donate to a good cause.

But whatever we choose to do or not to do, we must not be gloomy about it! As Jesus tells us, ‘when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’

May we all have a joyful, holiday Lent!



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