By Rev. Dr. Vinod John @johnvinod
Ash Wednesday | February 17, 2021
The word “Lent” emerged as an abbreviation of an old English term, “Lencten” meaning lengthening of days and pointing to the onset of the much-awaited springtime or spring season after a long and cold winter in Europe. The Lent or the passion season is one of the most beautiful times of the year. I like it more than the Christmas season for several reasons.
First, though the birth of Jesus Christ was unique in several ways; however, his birth and the three decades that Jesus spent after his birth living almost in anonymity in Galilee of Israel would not have mattered much if he had not launched into the divine ministry for which he came.
Second, I like the Lenten season better than Christmas because Lent is yet uncommercialized and has not yet lost its spiritual meaning like Christmas.
Third, Lent has not become as popular as the Christmas season and only the spiritually inclined followers of Christ still show some interest in the disciplines associated with the Lenten Season such as prayer, fasting, sacrifice, and giving up certain things we love most to gain something higher and deeper.
Fourth, Lenten season commemorates literally the forty days of Jesus’ experiences and struggles in the wilderness, unlike Christmas and its traditions, which hardly have anything to do with the reality of what truly happened at the birth of Jesus Christ. In fact, no one knows exactly when Jesus was born…certainly not on December 25th!
Fifth, I admire how the Lenten season is about looking within and deeper into ourselves and it is an opportunity for us to learn and draw from the deep spirituality of Jesus Christ rather than looking outside at the pompous celebrations, opulent festivities, and show-off of what money and power can buy during the Christmas season.
Sixth, I like how the Lenten season begins and how it concludes. It is the Lent—the forty days of physical and spiritual solitude in the wilderness—that ushered Jesus Christ into this divine calling and ministry. This sacred season in the church tradition today culminates in a requisite reminder of the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, especially in the context we find ourselves in since 2020.
Seventh, I also love the Lenten season, because it follows an ancient tradition of the early Christianity in which the followers of Jesus were prepared and discipled before they were baptized on Easter Sunday. This Lenten season, therefore, is another opportunity for us to examine our lives and ask ourselves if it is really the biblical Jesus Christ we are following or the Jesus of own making as per our own culture or religion.
Eighth, and lastly, I appreciate the Lenten Season because it affords us the unique opportunity to take our eyes off everything else and focus on Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. This is particularly true in the current pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus which has claimed millions of lives around the world, crippling economies of all nations, siphoning off lives of most people and churches and leaving many of us literally and figuratively gasping for a fresh breath of hope. The lent/springtime is a time of hope. And what better hope can we think of than the fact of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in time of death and destruction that we see around us today? What better hope than the hope of a bodily resurrection of our loved ones who we have lost in the past year or so? What better hope can there be than this that we, too, shall be resurrected to eternal life even if we departed from this earth during this pandemic in 2021?
Therefore, I invite you to journey with me in this current season of Lent 2021 with much expectation, “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12: 2 NRSV). And as we focus on Him this Ash Wednesday, February 17th, the first day of the Lenten season of 2021, let us sincerely heed to the earnest plea of prophet Joel in the Old Testament and let us return to the Lord!
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster” (Joel 2: 12-13 ESV).