When I attended the Ash Wednesday service yesterday, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. When most people think of Ash Wednesday, they are likely to think of seriousness or formality. It is a day that kicks off an entire season of introspection, sacrifice, and prayer. It is a time where we consider what sins we committed or what wrongs we have done. We resolve to become a better version of the person that we are. We commit to walking the path of love as Jesus once did. This is not just about being a better Christian but being a better human being.
Lent and Hope
I am in love with the ancient liturgies of the faith. I adore being able to read and utter words that Christians have been saying for centuries. There is a beauty to the continuity…the legacy. Ash Wednesday is meant to be a mournful day. However, I see Ash Wednesday and the entire Lenten season as one of hope.
When the priest at my church gave the homily yesterday, he pointed out the fact that there are some people who find the repentance to be a bit excessive. Some people skip Ash Wednesday altogether because they don’t want to deal with the pageantry and negativity. They prefer to just skip right to Easter. He said a wonderful thing that has remained with me: “Lent points to the fact that pain and death don’t win. Lent points to the resurrection and Jesus overcoming death.”
Every single human being who has ever lived on this earth has felt pain or suffering in one way of another. It’s just a fact of life, pain and suffering exist. Jesus shines like a bright beacon here. He shows us that pain and death are not the end. In his earthly life, he suffered so much. He suffered at the hands of the temple leaders and the Romans. He was mocked, whipped, and spat on. Finally, he died in the most shameful way possible — upon a cross. That was the death reserved for enslaved people and criminals.
Did Jesus’s story end there? Of course not! He rose again three days later. We are also told that there was a great earthquake and that an angel descended from heaven to remove the stone from the mouth of the tomb. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor had placed soldiers there. The fear was that someone would steal Jesus’s body. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the Roman soldiers “shook and became like dead men” because of the fear they felt (Matthew 28:4).
Walking with Jesus
Paul’s Letter to the Romans has a wonderful way of putting it: “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:9-11). From Jesus’s death to his resurrection, he broke the hold of death and gave humanity hope. This points to another wonderful quote from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
As a Christian, I love the whole liturgical journey. I love the different liturgical seasons in the church. They all have special messages to impart about different aspects of Jesus’s life. They have wonderful benefits for those of us who follow Jesus. Lent is just another one of those seasons. I spend my time focusing on Jesus in the desert preparing for his ministry. I think about Jesus as he prepares for the sacrifice he must make for humankind.
So, while Jesus defeated death and overcame this world, there were dark times in the Lord’s life. Thomas Fuller, an Anglican clergyman once wrote: “It is always darkest just before the day dawneth.” The more we focus on our Lenten journey and preparing ourselves, the brighter the Easter season will be. We are in the night season now. Soon the sun will dawn and we will be celebrating Easter. I want to be with Jesus in the valleys and rejoice with him on the mountains. Don’t you?