Today, March 1st is Ash Wednesday. Lent, the 40 day period before Easter begins today. It is 40 days because Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to prepare Himself. Some churches hold services and place an ash mark on everyone’s forehead on Ash Wednesday. For some this is the mark of a believer. Maybe you have seen people today with that. Traditionally these ashes came from burning last year’s palms from Palm Sunday. Ashes are symbols of repentance and mortality. Remember ashes to ashes, dust to dust?
Lent is a time of reflection, repentance, and prayer. It is a time to think about what we’ve done wrong, who we really are, ask forgiveness, and draw closer to God in prayer. A time of preparation, making ourselves better. We give things up from coffee, candy, and pizza to television, Facebook and leisure time. I don’t think giving up turnip greens, exercise, housework or homework is exactly in line with things to sacrifice. Why? Any thoughts on why we give things up?
In Luke 9:23, Jesus was speaking. “Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” Sounds a lot like Lent to me. When I deny myself something as trivial as a cup of coffee I am reminded of why I do. For me it is a small minuscule token for what Christ gave up for me. I am reminded that I want to be His disciple and that I should be a better person. I should talk to Him more. I should pray more.
Try it this year and see how you feel. You do not need to be Catholic, in fact I am Protestant. Maybe give up not going to church. Have trouble lying or gossiping. Give that up. Give up a little of your time to pray more or to help someone. Have family devotions. Prepare your family, your mind, and your heart for what Easter really means. Give up a little and gain a lot. See how these forty days of sacrifice affect you, those around you, and perhaps your next forty or fifty years. Prepare yourself not just for Easter. Prepare yourself for a better life. Prepare yourself for life eternal.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God'”…. Matthew 4:1 ESV