Lent, like so many things in the Church, is not what many people think it is.
Lent is not joyless or hopeless. Its emphasis on repentance is coupled with a joy which Jesus teaches in the Sermon the Mount when He teaches His disciples not to crumple their faces and act miserable when they fast. Rather they should wash their faces and not impose their fasting on others. This is between you and God. And because God is who He is (loving, merciful, gracious), there’s no good reason to act so sour in the middle of our self-denial.
Lent is not about giving up things. While there may be health benefits to giving up your daily chocolate fix, a more sincere Lent is about giving up sins–giving up those idols which threaten to control us every day. Lent is a season to give those pet sins of ours a rest and devote the time we would waste pursuing them to Scripture and prayer instead.
In that regard, Lent’s 40 days are just the right length to help us attain to ridding ourselves of those sins. Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness were the original Lent and they had as their goal the cross which saves us all.
Therefore, these 40 days are best understood as forty days of joy. Muted joy, to be sure. We’re saving our alleluias and glorias for Easter, but we are not joyless. We’re meditating on the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, purposefully, toward a renewing of hope, a reviving of joy in God’s love, a restoration of our lives under God’s love in Christ’s sacrifice.
Lent’s 40 days are 40 days of passion; 40 days of joy; 40 days of hope; 40 days of love.
God bless you these 40 days. Come to our extra services. There is lots of good news to go around for this sin-darkened world.
Praying for you,