So it’s now just over three weeks since Lent began - and maybe this holy and precious season has been pretty much overlooked and overwhelmed because of the global coronavirus pandemic - and that’s understandable I guess.
But it’s still Lent - and Lent is meant to be a very meaningful time of prayer, fasting and personal, and corporate, reflection...
The season of Lent is about new challenges and, at the heart of it, is the example of Jesus - taking on the challenge that was to be His ministry.
He was called to a seemingly impossible task. He was led into the wilderness to face various scenarios - to take the easy road or to face suffering on the Cross.
He chose to be simply obedient to God’s call, which resulted in both pain and glory?
So how are your Lenten resolutions holding up? Yes, mine, too, I’m afraid! People often don’t look forward to Lent. Childhood memories of giving up chocolate come immediately to mind. Words like “sacrifice,” “discipline,” and “self-denial” are often used in ways that suggest that Lent is something to be endured rather than a time of grace and spiritual growth.
Maybe failing to keep our Lenten resolutions is kind of okay because it teaches us humility? The humility lies not only in admitting the failure but also in having another go - and risking further failure.
This is not only important personally it’s also true politically. Let me explain; nearly forty-one years ago, on 26th March 1979, Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty after decades of conflict and war. This was a real breakthrough in building peace for people in those two countries and the rest of the world. It paved the way for an agreement between Israel and the PLO in 1993, the Oslo Accord. That started a new peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. In the treaty, both sides agreed to some important resolutions.
Have they always kept those resolutions? No!
Have they had the humility to admit that they haven’t? Not always!
At the moment there is yet another, maybe deeply flawed and partisan, effort being made to take forward the Middle East peace process.
It’s easy to be cynical about this but humility is needed to go on believing that it’s worth making yet another set of resolutions and, if necessary, yet another, and another - and, God willing, maybe someday there will be true peace and real justice in the Middle East!
What’s the alternative to humility here? In our personal and political life, if we don’t try again after failure, then the alternative is an arrogant refusal to repent and try again.
I regularly resolve to spend time being a better husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend and minister - and then fail to do so.
But I hope that each failure is less complete and gradually I hope I’m becoming a better person “in waiting”. If I can admit that I get things wrong, then God helps me put them right.
We’re halfway through the season of Lent and Lent ends with Easter, God’s great act of putting things right! So maybe we should think of Lent as a yearly second chance?
Each year the Church gives us six weeks to take a long, loving look at our lives to see if our values and priorities are in line with God’s desires for us.
Since most of us find that we’ve wandered from God’s path, Lent becomes that second chance, or do-over-again, to “return to God with our whole heart.”
As we journey through this annual “second chance”, remember that each step brings us closer to the welcoming arms of our loving God.