If you are like me and grew up Catholic then you have lived with Lent all your life. If that is so then perhaps like me you have not paid any attention to the teachings about lent for a long time. We have lent down pat all we need to do is to focus on reconnecting with God by sacrifice, alms giving and prayer. Perhaps that is why we are not changed by lent and simply go back to living our faith in the same way we did prior to Lent.
The issue is God has said to us repeatedly how he wants our hearts not our sacrifices. That alone should make us pause and reconsider how Lent can point us to Easter. We need to embrace the gift given to us in Christ who gave up his life for us that we might know the reality of God’s love, God’s mercy and God’s desire for us to live in his kingdom.
Lent should do more than refocus us – Lent should change us in the same way Jesus was changed by his forty days in the desert.
What should happen to us during Lent is modeled for us in Jesus and in the many stories about 40 day experiences given to us in the Scriptures. Remember Noah, God told him to prepare as we are told to prepare. For 40 days it rained and the rain changed the earth and renewed God’s covenant with us.
Remember Moses after leading the Israelites out of Egypt he went up the Mountain and for 40 days he was face to face with God. During those 40 days we are told by scripture he neither ate nor drank. At the end of his forty days with God he was transformed by his encounter with God and that transformation was visible to the Israelites. .
Remember the story of Goliath, he taunted and challenged the Israelites for 40 days until David stepped forward for the glory of God and his victory gave freedom to the Israelites. All the trained soldiers were frozen by fear because the obstacle of this giant was too great. It took a boy who had faith in God to step forward and show what faith could accomplish.
Elijah after he slew the priests of Baal fled because Jezebel sought to kill him. He feared for his life and so he ran away; his trust in God seemed to have disappeared. During his flight he cried out to God stating he was unworthy and asked God to take his life. Instead of allowing him to die, God sent him an angel with water and food. After eating this spiritual food he journeyed for 40 days and 40 nights and hid in a cave. It was in that cave that he found God in that small whispering sound. Elijah was transformed by his hearing the voice of God at the end of those forty days.
Jonah, that reluctant prophet when he finally went to Nineveh he traveled its length for 40 days after which Nineveh repented and was transformed by its repentance.
Led by Moses, the Israelites reached the Promised Land and sent 12 scouts into it to reconnoiter it for 40 days. Even though they found it to be a magnificent land flowing with milk and honey as God promised 11 of the 12 scouts said the inhabitants were too large and fierce and could not be conquered. Only Caleb said the Lord will give us victory let us go into this land promised to us by God. Caleb’s trust in God was not enough to deter the Israelites from entering the Promised Land. Their lack of trust resulted in them spending forty years in the desert.
Gideon tried his best to avoid God’s call and after testing God he accepted God’s call to defeat Midianites. God used him to give the Israelites 40 years of prosperity.
King David’s’ reign over Israel was 40 years and he was called beloved of God.
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples for 40 days and then after their time in prayer in the upper room they were transformed and proclaimed Christ as the promised Messiah.
I recount all these forty day stories for a reason that should be obvious because the forty days of lent should change us and the change should be evident and lasting. I believe Lent can change us if only we approach Lent differently. Let us not do the same things we have always done in the past, instead let us do more using the 40 days as a source of transformation.
Spending 40 days in the desert is impossible but I can take 40 minutes of every day and find a new way of isolating myself. I am going to use the model of Jesus, Elijah, Moses, David and all the others and allow God to take me into a desert place. I am going to once more discover all the promises God made to you and I.
This will in addition to my daily routine of prayer and scripture reading. I am going find a quiet place and allow God to transform me and come into my heart so that my trust and faith in God will allow me to face the Goliaths, Jezebel’s, Midianites, and all the obstacles that seek to thwart me from going where God wants me to go.
I invite all my readers to do the same. Let us not have the reluctance of Jonah or the Israelites who only saw obstacles in the Promised Land or in Goliath.