Anticipating the Resurrection

We’re now in Easter week, the most sacred time in Christendom. Well, you might ask, what really is Lent all about? A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that, “Lent has evolved into a self-help program for many people who give up candy, carbs and alcohol for 40 days before Easter.”

About Lent

Traditionally, Lent starts Ash Wednesday, where we’re reminded that we came from dust and we’ll return to dust. Ashes also signify mourning and repentance for sins we’ve committed. It begins a period of prayer, fasting and service, a time of reflection but also thanksgiving. Not all Christians observe Lent, but those who do are encouraged to reflect on Jesus Christ’s death by crucifixion, burial in a tomb and resurrection from the dead.

That reflection also evokes thanksgiving, because Christ’s work was for each of us. Let me explain. I grew up in the inner city on Chicago’s south side. I was raised without a mother (she died when I was 8) by an abusive father, who was pretty much absent during my teens. Needless to say, I had opportunities aplenty to get into trouble. I exercised those frequently through shoplifting, underage drinking, fighting, etc. So I don’t glorify my sin, let’s just say many other misdeeds.

It toned down somewhat when I went to college. This came as a shock to many of my teachers. In fact, after a low score on my ACT (I actually drank until 2AM the night before) my senior guidance counselor told me that “I would never amount to anything.”

I continued on the wild side through college and even after graduation. However, I started wondering why I wasn’t happy. I received a clear answer on that. I believe God told me in a thought that was foreign to my thinking, “Leonard, if you thought about someone besides yourself, you might start to find a path towards happiness.”

Life Change

I committed simply to try that with the next woman I dated. She would later become my wife. One day before our wedding my soon-to-be mother-in-law saw she had a captive audience. She began to tell me about Jesus. In fact, just about all of her words were about Jesus, and I had no choice but to listen. At the time it seemed a bit over the top, but she connected the dots on things I’d heard before in Catholic schools. Jesus loved me…He’s alive as much today as He ever was…and all I needed to do was to pray and invite Him into my life. He’d bring me peace, transformation, direction and eternal life if I just trusted Him.

I did that very thing several decades ago, and now I understand those benefits even more fully. That’s why Lent also evokes thanksgiving. Jesus paid a heavy price for my salvation. Yet, not only did He save me, He also turned my life around. And not only mine, but He also did the same for my father.

Lasting Peace

Is Lent about self-help, I guess to some extent it can be. I mean all of us would probably benefit from a little more fasting, but we’d also benefit from a little more prayer and a little more reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice and what it means. If this is even partly about self-help, then Jesus and the Gospel are really the impetus. So as Lent comes to a close, if you’ve never had the kind of peace I described, then I encourage you to do what I did. Pray and ask Jesus to come into your life and trust that He will do just that.

And finally I wish all of you a happy Resurrection day with that famous paschal greeting, “He is risen, He is risen indeed!”