The grace and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you this Lenten season. As you read this letter, we are well into Lent and on our journey towards Holy Week.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The grace and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you this Lenten season. As you read this letter, we are well into Lent and on our journey towards Holy Week. Over the past month I have been reflecting on Lent and what it actually means. Many people choose to surrender (fast from) something that is part of our daily lives. Most people usually give up certain foods, television, computers, or other things. The purpose of giving these things up is supposed to be a fast for creating more “God space” in our lives. Unfortunately, most of what we give up fails to really create more space for God, since we often end up filling that space with something else other than God. As I read through the Gospels and understand the meaning of Lent, I have discovered that Lent is indeed a journey, a journey not of giving up “something,” but a journey of total surrender. It is walking in the Way with Jesus to Jerusalem and the cross. In reality, it is a call to die.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this fact. For Jesus and His disciples the journey to Jerusalem begins in a place north of Galilee in Caesarea Philippi with Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am? Followed by Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:13-16; Mk. 8:27-29; Lk. 9:18-20). The next couple of verses reveals Jesus telling His disciples that He must go up to Jerusalem where He will be put to death. This is His first prediction, or better, warning of His crucifixion. But that is not all that it says. All three gospels record the same thing, whereas Jesus challenges anyone who follows Him must, “deny their self and pick up their cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24-26; Mk. 8:34-36; Lk. 9:23-25).
A few verses later Jesus predicts His death a second time (Matt. 17:22-23; Mk.9:30-32; Lk. 9:43-45) and then in Luke 9:51 we are told that, “As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The word “resolutely” indicates that once Jesus began His journey to Jerusalem there was no turning back. He had already, long ago, surrendered His will to the will of His Father and was determined to live His life, and die, to fulfill His mission here on earth. And, that mission was to lead us to into a deeper life of communion and intimacy with the Father. Subsequently, the passages above in which He predicts His death also predict His resurrection, “On the third day He will be raised to life.” Thus we discover that true life, real life, begins with a willingness to die. With this new life we are raised up into a right and renewed relationship with God, in which we now are participants with Christ in the mystery of divine life with the Father. Therefore, as it was for Jesus, it is for us. We are called to join Him in the Way to Jerusalem.
If we are going to follow Him we must be willing to go all the way to the cross, and to our death. However, by dying we do not lose our lives but instead gain new life. Lent is a time of deep reflection and surrender in which we also set our faces “resolutely” towards Jerusalem leaving all else behind, knowing that in order to experience “true life” we must journey with Christ to the cross. Lent is a time in which we crucify “self,” so that even as Christ is raised from death on the third day we are raised up with Him. In summary I use the words of the apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). May Lent be a special time for you as you give up all that prevents you from living in and experiencing the fullness of God’s love and grace. Let us journey together with Jesus to Jerusalem, dying daily to ‘self’, knowing that on Easter morning that even as Christ raised up from the dead, we are raised with Him to new life.
Grace & Peace,