By Hilary Scheppers
ASHES & SACKCLOTHS
In the Old Testament, today, we hear from Jonah. He announces to the town of Nineveh that, essentially, they have 40 days to repent, or there will be a disaster. Are you kidding? How scary is that prophecy?
Luckily, our faith has given us the Gospel reading as well, which tells us that salvation is no longer won through our repentance alone. What do I mean? Luke’s Gospel tells us of Jesus’ salvation.
We don’t have to fast in ashes and sackcloths for 40 days as the town of Nineveh did. It’s still a good idea, but it’s not necessary for salvation. The wonderful news is that Jesus has granted us salvation by His grace. This Lenten season, we are asked to understand this. To understand Jesus and genuinely start to follow Him.
FASTING FOR JESUS
When Jesus went into the wilderness, He left many things behind. What will we leave behind this Lent? What can we do to follow after Him? Walk like Him?
As a younger parishioner, I always gave up sugar for Lent. Sound familiar? I usually fasted from something dietary, but definitely made mistakes on the reasons I was fasting. Was I doing this for Jesus? Or for my gain?
It wasn’t until much later someone shared that I could “take something up” instead of “give something up.” It was a real revelation. I still remember that Lenten season as one of the best; I took up going to mass twice a week, so every Wednesday morning, I biked across campus to a small chapel moments before daybreak.
DEEPEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Choosing to start my mornings with an early Mass led to a few incredible changes. I developed a stronger relationship with Christ. Through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I kept Jesus closer to me, and He made his. And keeping Jesus closer to me, made “giving up” other things way more manageable.
So my question — how will we grower closer to Jesus this Lenten season? How will we do that this hour? Are we going to take the roof off the building to let Christ be known?
Maybe it is eliminating or limiting what hinders you from Christ, like excessive social media habits or adding more of the people, places, or things that do encourage and support you in growing a relationship with Christ. What will it be?
SPEND TIME IN HIS WORD
While Jesus was in the desert, we know he was tempted. But do you know what His response was? Scripture. Jesus illustrates the power of having the Word of God freshly on our lips; so that in moments of despair or temptation, we too can triumph over the snares of the devil.
I sincerely encourage us all to turn to the Gospels this Lenten season, to learn what Jesus asks of us. When we understand Jesus more, we can truly start to follow Him and experience His incredible, holy love.
Instead of Jonah calling us to fast in ashes and sackcloth, Jesus calls us to fast alongside him as a friend, to walk with him — not only to avoid perishing — but to live forever.
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