Last Wednesday most people were celebrating Valentine’s Day with that special someone. However, this was not the only celebration taking place this year on that day. February 14 was also the beginning of the Church season of Lent. It is marked with the service of Ash Wednesday. Lent is the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sunday’s) where we recognize the significance of the Cross and the death of Jesus Christ in our lives. Usually during this season Christians all over the world fast, pray, read scripture, and repent. It is also a season of reconciliation as we invite people who have fallen away from the Church to return and be reconciled. I always find it interesting that more Christians do not celebrate this season.
On Ash Wednesday you are confronted with the reality that death is a part of humanity because of the fallen nature of creation after the first sin in the garden which is found in Genesis 3. To mark this reality the Church puts palm ashes on the forehead of believers in the shape of the cross. We remind them that we are from dust and to dust we will return, so let us repent and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Every year I usually get the same question, “I thought only Catholics celebrate Ash Wednesday?” This is somewhat true given that the Roman Catholic Church has been celebrating Ash Wednesday and Lent for generations and Roman Catholics make up the majority of the Christian faith, but this season is not just for Catholic’s. No, in fact this should be a season that all believers should consider to celebrate.
We need to face the reality that death is a part of all of us because of sins. We should also consider that Jesus calls us all to “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4) Lent is a season of repentance. This announcement came after Jesus fasted and was tempted by Satan for 40 days in the desert. This call to repentance is not a one time situation. In fact the word for repentance (metanoo) is not a static word. “Repent” means to change directions. However, it is not a one time change. This particular word mean to “continually” change directions. As some biblical translations state Jesus words like this, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the Kingdom of Heaven!” As we all know the transformation of the heart takes time. It is not a one time event. This is because to change ones life takes time as we sluff off our habits and sinful nature. God calls us to continually change and return to Him.
One of the main passages we read during the season of Lent comes from Joel 2, “Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your hearts, with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow; tear your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD your God, for He is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive.” God always calls us to return to Him because He knows that a transformation of heart or repentance takes time and an eternity of grace from Him. A sign in ancient times of repentance is covering yourselves with sackcloth and ashes, hence the sign of the cross with palm ashes. An example of this is found in the prophet of Jonah. When the city of Nineveh repented the King called for all people to dress in sackcloth and ashes. (There are many other examples found in scripture.) For this reason all Christians should consider the season of Lent to be a part of their Christians growth.
Is repentance a part of your walk with Jesus Christ? Are you continually checking your faith to see where you have not allowed the Holy Spirit to transform you? What parts of your life do not reflect the love of Jesus Christ? These are the questions we consider during Lent and should be considering all the time. I hope and pray that you consider this challenge from God to continually repent and return to Him so that you may love the LORD with all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself just as Jesus commanded.