When I was a child, my parents would often take part in special Lenten studies and worship services. When I became an adult, I found that I needed to take the weeks of Lent as a time for renewal of my own soul. Lent is that period of the year defined as 40 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday set aside as a period of self-denial and self examination.
The words self-denial seem strange in our world. Most often we’re told through both politicians and media that we shouldn’t have to deny ourselves anything. Yet, Jesus talked about denial. He said that anyone who wanted to be a follower of his must “deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” ( Matthew 16:24,25) Christianity is centered around a cross. You can’t be a follower of Jesus, without encountering that troubling cross.
Followers of Jesus have never had an easy existence. Challenges have come from within and without. As a person who follows the way of the cross, you will inevitably put yourself into situations that you would never have had to deal with, had you not chosen to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Saying “yes” to Jesus can be demanding, because by its very nature, following means that you are going somewhere. You may be growing deeper in your relationship with God, through prayer, fasting or sacrificial giving. You may feel the call of God to move into the world in a new way, and get involved in an outreach ministry. The call of Christ to follow may lead you into worlds you never expected to go, and to move among people you would have avoided. Following Jesus will ask something from you – in time, commitment and attentiveness to God. It will not leave you where it finds you. Which in itself is both grace and mercy.