The Latter Rain: Celebrate Lent – Day 6
16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair[a] and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 NLT
As the first full week of Lent begins we may already be beginning to doubt our resolve to keep a Lenten fast. I know I am. It seems Satan always try to attack my resolve when I commit to a pathway of spiritual reflection. Christians of various traditions offer up different guidelines for fasting; what and when to eat or not eat. Whatever our tradition, let us resolve this year to do this one thing – fast with joy.
Fasting as joy? The idea of skipping meals and doing without certain of my favorite foods does not sound joyful to me. But when I think of all the good things God wants to work into my life if I will put Him first above all things, (yes, even my appetite…especially my appetite!) then I am excited to take up the spiritual disciplines of Lent; fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (giving or acts of mercy toward others).
Jesus commands His followers to fast with bright faces, so that they may be bright souls shining for Him into a dark and lonely world. If we Christians approach Lent with a sense of dearth and darkness, we will miss out on the great blessings that come from concentrated times of personal worship and reflection, of giving to others from a full heart.
Today, as we begin, let us hear the ancient words of this lenten prayer from the Eastern Christian tradition…
“Let us begin the fast with joy. Let us give ourselves to spiritual efforts. Let us cleanse our souls. Let us cleanse our flesh. let us fast from passions as we fast from foods, taking pleasure in the good works of the Spirit and accomplishing them in love that we may be made worthy to see the passion of Christ our God and His Holy Pascha, rejoicing with spiritual joy.”
Forgiveness Sunday Vespers
I hope you are beginning to hear the real message of the Lenten journey upon which we are embarking. To take up our cross daily, as Jesus commands, is to be a labor of love, a journey of joy. It is not to be viewed as some sort of punishment. Life in our world is filled with hard times. But it can also be filled with joy in the midst of pain and difficulty; it depends on our outlook. Lent is a season of discipline to help amend our outlook. A concentrated time to help fill us up with the Holy Spirit that we may see this life as the beautiful journey for which it is meant.
The latter rain is falling. Can you feel it? God’s rain always brings new life. Step out into the bright light of the Lenten season and live refreshed in the showers of blessing and you will find joy for your journey.