Joel 2:12-14 – “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.”
Lent is traditionally a time of sorrowful repentance. A journey through fasting to renew ourselves before God as broken and helpless without Him. It is a season to remind ourselves of our need for, and dependency on, God. The Lenten season honors the resurrection by signifying that there is no resurrection without the suffering of the cross. No life without His death. Pope Benedict XVI explains lent as a “providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.”
For us, this season of prayer and fasting is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves and our lives to the Lord. It is a time to look inside ourselves and deal with the things we have hidden within us. A time to look deeper into our own hearts and allow God to take even more of his place within us. It is a time to acknowledge our sin, confess and repent. A time to purify our hearts and minds.
This year I want to encourage you to truly participate in the Lenten season (even if you are beginning a little late). Here are a few suggestions on how to participate:
- A good place to begin this internal and personal journey is by praying Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”. Use the Word to examine and open your heart a little wider and go a little deeper. Allow God to expose things within you that are less than pleasing to Him, things you have yet to submit to Him, and commit to laying those things down. Confess and repent, then thank the Lord for His unfailing love and forgiveness.
- Search out Old Testament prophecies of Jesus and re-read the New Testament gospel account. Meditate on it, try to find deeper understanding and experience. Use this time to renew your devotion to God, to redirect your gaze to Jesus and to pursue intimacy with God more consciously.
- I encourage you also to fast. Moses, Elijah and Jesus all participated and modeled 40 day fasts for us (see: Exodus 34; Deuteronomy 9:9; 1 Kings 19:8; Matthew 4:2). I am not asking you to fast from everything, but maybe something you normally over indulge in such as coffee, chocolate, social media, television etc. Fasting is a way of denying the body in order to be more able to hear the Lord, strengthen your will to avoid temptation, and to enter, in a very small way, into the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Keep this fast between you and the Lord. Matthew 6:16-18 says “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you”
The Lenten season pairs fasting with confession and prayer and creates a somber yet powerful journey to the cross. I think it is an incredibly valuable time for the Christian. It is an organized opportunity for deeper revelation, deeper understanding, transformation and renewal. As Matthew 6:21 says, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. What a perfect season to truly allow Jesus to become your treasure.
John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease”; To God be the glory, forever, amen.
If you would like to talk a little more about the season of Lent and Easter, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject attn: MEL.
On April 19, 2019 (Good Friday) there will be a Stations of the Cross set up at QHOP. Please come and enjoy a contemplative journey through the last moments of Jesus life with us. It is a beautiful way to set our minds and hearts up for the celebration of Easter, the Resurrection of our Lord!