Lent reflection by John Loving:
The season of Lent is the on-going and never ceasing practice of Christian reflection of the final weeks of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a season during which those who follow the way of the Lord contemplate the meaning of not only his actions, but of our own. We ruminate over the sayings of Jesus, and ultimately of our own. This is the season of Christian thinking, true Christian thinking, to which all theology must ultimately bow the knee and acknowledge its weakness, its incomplete nature. Christian theology, no matter its content, must recognize that it is hollow until it is informed by this season, in the shadow of both the life of Christ in these weeks, and in the practice of the Church.
But it must also be recognized that the season of Lent is not one only of contemplation. Contemplation is limited in its efficacious results, and the wisest of women and men may be far from being what, according to Christian faith and quite in opposition to ancient Greek (and even current) philosophy, is the perfect and highest life. The season of Lent is not restricted to contemplation, but is also a season of action. This is the season in which the Church, as a whole and in its individual members, either give something up or take something else in practice as a means of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus for the world. But this cannot be the end of our practice. Our practice is ultimately empty, as “filthy rags,” unless it is coupled with acts of graciousness and self-abnegation for the sake and well-being of our neighbors.
Hence the practice of Lent is to practice not only a constant state of remembrance of the grace of our God, but it is also to emulate that grace upon the world. It is to wage war against the selfishness of our being, it is to be willing to save others who need saving, even if they do not realize that they are in need. This is not a call for a militaristic form of evangelization, but it is a call to be always in realization of our shortcomings in the light of the actions of our God, who was crucified not only for our sins, but also the sake of the poor, the captive, oppressed, for whom he became bound in order that they may be free. It is for us, in order to realize the severity of our hubris and to be freed from it, and thus free to be a force that will raise our voices for the freedom of those who are oppressed by the powers of the world.
Lent, then, is not simply the season of remembrance. Lent is not only a time of the year when we give up something for a period of a few weeks. No, Lent is more, much more than that. Lent is the heartbeat of the Christian life, because Lent is the act of repentance and transformation. The death of Jesus of Nazareth is the only way to life, to resurrection, to the world transformed. The season of Lent cannot end on Easter Sunday. Lent continues through the year, and if we do not recognize this fact of the Christian life then we are guilty of the same sort of hard-headedness of those who, in the Jewish Scriptures, did not recognize that the Sabbath was a time to do good. We are commissioned to be transformed in the image of Jesus. This is the purpose of Lent.
Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur. Our Lamb has conquered; him let us follow.