by Nick McMichael, Youth Director
When I was growing up, I always thought Lent was the time of year that came before Easter when the weird Christian people tortured themselves by giving up things they loved. It was also the time of year when McDonald’s sold Filet-O-Fish sandwiches two-for-one! Although these assumptions I had were true, Lent is about so much more.
Lent is the season that represents the forty days Jesus spends being tempted in the wilderness after his baptism. It is that time of wrestling with temptation and worldly things that leads up to the beginning of Jesus’ three-year ministry. In remembrance of this story, Christians sacrifice something in their lives for the forty days of Lent in order to participate in Jesus’ struggle with Him. But, that story happens three years before the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the story which we remember during Holy Week and Easter. So, why do we put this season on the Christian calendar right before Easter?
Lent is a season of preparation. In the story of Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus is preparing for his ministry. In a similar way, the Gospel of Luke sets up the whole story of Jesus’ ministry as a period of preparation for the cross. In Luke, Jesus and his disciples go through a whole narrative of traveling toward Jerusalem, which was the Holy City of the Jewish people. They are traveling there because the celebration of Passover is coming up and making a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem is a normal thing to do for this celebration. This is a celebration of freedom, and it is at the end of the week that Jesus is killed by the Romans and then raised from the dead by God. The season of Lent reminds us of the pilgrimage that Jesus and his disciples had to take to get to Jerusalem. This pilgrimage was more than just a physical journey. It was a spiritual time of preparation for Jesus and his disciples along their journey. This journey would lead them to Jesus’ death and resurrection, no small event.
So I urge you during this Lenten season to view this time leading up to Easter as not just some random obligation in which the church says you should participate, but rather as a time of preparation of your heart and soul for the salvific death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Be present in that story of the wilderness this year, and travel through it together as a Christian community as we make our way to the cross with Christ.