In the outward signs and ideas of Lent, it seems as if this time of repentence and recounciliation are just about a Christian life. But looking deeper at these two ideas, as part of the process we call Lent, they can have meaning and benefits for those who do not follow any religious faith or culture. First of all, Lent comes in the early days of Spring, when all around us the natural world is showing us a time of new growth and of change. We can see the promise of new life everywhere. It is a time to believe in the future. So in this season, it is worthwhile to pause and reflect on our lives, to see where we are going and, like the world around us, to see how we may flourish. No matter who we are, when we look deep into our interior self, into that part we call “ the heart”, we find good things about ourselves and things we like to keep hidden because we don’t like them. It is these hidden things, those little secret failings, the things we think are “ not good” about us that often make us unhappy, because they lead us astray from how we want to be. We repent of them. We wish to do better. The regret at past behaviours and the desire to try to do better in the future is repentence of the heart. Without first being honest about ourselves, we cannot be honest with any one else, including God. From this time of repentence, we need a healing time, a recounciliation. But until we are recounciliated with ourselves, how can we be recounciliated with others, let alone God? The kind of self-examination that the season of Lent offers is a process that can help everyone, because everyone has a spiritual dimension that demands attention if we are to live a full and healthy life. How we express that dimension is up to us. Some follow the example of Christ and couple repentence and recounciliation to that faith and a church, as I do in Meditations for Lent. Others may follow no established path or even believe in God but that does not mean they do not have a spiritual life just as important as anyone elses. We are told the Holy Spirit, like the wind, goes where it wants. Who can say it will not land in the heart of a secular blogger in Ohio or someone online in London who is not interested in “ religion”? As to fasting, which is what most people think of when they think about Lent, we know a little fasting helps the body and mind, but here is what the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah had to say about fasting for religious reasons: This is the fast that pleases me, says the Lord: share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor. What decent man or woman would turn away such need? And so the process of Lent itself with its self-examination, its desire to be more a person of love, and its little bit of self-denial is something we can all benefit from, because it is, like Spring, a time of renewal, hope, and belief in the future. What is the culmination of all of this Lent action? For the Christian it is found in Easter, the resurrection of Christ. This is the celebration of new life, a new Adam and a new Eve. Such a celebration is the opening of every heart to the joy of life. No one need be excluded from the deeper meanings of Lent, since the entire time is devoted to becoming that renewed person, that man or woman of virtue, which is say, a person of love.
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Blessings to you,