'What’s Lent?'

By the time you read this Lent will be into its second week but if, in these multi-cultural, multi-faith or no-faith times, you mention Lent in general conversation with someone, you might well be asked ‘What’s Lent?’ A fair enough question because if you have friends who are Jews, Muslims or Hindus you might ask them ‘what is Ramadan, Hanukkah or Diwali' seeking information about different religious seasons and festivals, all of which are important to those of other faiths and about which we probably know little.

So, what is Lent? As Christians we know that it is a period of 40 days (plus Sundays) observed as a preparation for our greatest festival, Easter, or Resurrection Sunday as it is known by some churches. Lent is a reminder that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness preparing for his earthly ministry, coming to terms with some of his mortal feelings. It is for us a season of soul searching, a time for reflection, for taking stock of our spiritual lives. What do (or could) we do to shake ourselves from the routine of the remaining 46 weeks of the year? Many will give up something which seems important – or at least attractive – to them; chocolate, alcohol, some television watching for example, doing the same thing every year and going back to our normal routine immediately after Easter. Our Lord isn’t interested in our transient sacrifice of life’s trivia but he might look more favourably on our giving up hidden sins, things we probably don’t acknowledge. Are we guilty of hypocrisy perhaps or of duplicity – Christian on Sundays and anything but during the week; or something else?

Lent needn’t be boring; in fact there are a number of stimulating features with some special Sundays and then Holy Week which offers much to stir our imaginations and faith. It is not a time for being negative; it should be meditative but positive. When we give up watching Coronation Street or some other time filler, we need to use that time to refocus our faith, perhaps by following a Lent course, probably by zoom this year, reading a devotional book or a section of the bible we’re unfamiliar with. Maybe use the time to phone someone who lives alone or who is unwell. We can’t visit these days but there are many ways of showing our Christian concern for others. Try to find ways in which this Lent, affected by Covid-19 in its observance, can be meaningful for you.

Robert Potter
Licensed Lay Minister – St Mary’s