Today is Clean Monday, the beginning of our Lenten journey to the Feast of the Holy Resurrection. I am usually quite excited about Great Lent. I get excited about the Sundays in Great Lent and the special customs that go with them, excited about simplifying our lives and abstaining from certain foods and activities that draw our attention away from God. This year I’m excited but also a little apprehensive. I’ve been feeling a little dismayed lately by all the wars and rumours of wars (Mark 13:7) and a question keeps forming in the back of my mind: What if this was the last Great Lent you ever got to participate in? That small but probing question seems to cause many to follow after it and I begin an internal inquisition: What if this was your last chance to really make an effort, to keep the Fast with zeal and love for the Lord? What if it was the last time you were able to attend Holy Week services, to give alms, deny yourself, repent? Would it make a difference? Would you try harder? Complain less? Be more conscientious, more rigours, less selfish?
We look at Great Lent as a test, a race even, that we run in order to successfully cross the finish line, to reach the celebration of the Lord’s Saving Passion and His life-giving Resurrection. Great Lent is a microcosm of our Christian life. We are only given a short period of time in life to push ourselves to keep the commandments of Christ in order to successfully cross the finish line on the Day of Judgment. We do not know how long or how short the race will be, so we must “arise and be going” (Mt. 26:46) now. We must pray now; we must fast, repent, and confess our sins now because we don’t know if we’ll be granted a then. Great Lent reminds us of the now, of the race we are a part of but perhaps haven’t taken the time to truly run.
If this were my last Lent, my last days, I hope and pray that I would reach the end and hear the blessed words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Mt. 25:23).
I wish you all a Good Lent, beg your forgiveness and ask for your continued prayers!