According to the Christian liturgical calendar, this Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Lenten season. What is Lent? Is it an official Christian holiday? Was it instituted in the Bible? Are Christians required to do so?
Webster’s New World Dictionary 2nd College Edition defines Lent as “the period of forty weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter, observed variously in Christian churches by fasting and penitence to commemorate Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness.” But Lent is not officially instituted in Scripture, therefore, observing it is not in any way a requirement for Christians. However, Christians from different theological persuasions choose to observe it as a way of focusing their thoughts on Jesus Christ during the Easter season. This, to me, is a good thing. We should not observe Lent only as a time of boasting of one’s sacrifice or trying to earn God’s favour. The key is to focus on the repenting of sin and consecrating oneself to God.
As Protestants, we tend to dismiss Lent as a Catholic practice. As a result, we may be robbing ourselves of a deeper experience in our relationship with God. I believe that there is a deeper reason to why Christians are avoiding the observance of Lent, and that is because they are finding it hard to face up to and repent of their sins!
Take the case of Father Joachim Kang, convicted of misappropriating Church funds in 2004. This prominent clergyman would not even admit, much less show the slightest remorse for his wrongdoings. His behavior throughout his trial prompted the district judge, Jasvender Kaur to make this harsh observation, “I am not dealing with a man who has exhibited any sort of remorse that will tell in any marked way in his favor.” The New Paper added, “Indeed, in his 22-page mitigation plea, the words ‘sorry’ or ‘apologize’ were nowhere to be found.”
When we look at the Bible, we find another man who confessed and repented of his sin so candidly in Psalm 51. The superscription of the psalm clearly states his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. He shared how he found liberating joy in being forgiven and in living under the sunshine of God’s love and favor.
Let’s then take time for reflection and repentance as we approach the Easter season. God is pleased when we repent of sins, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17). There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside some time to focus on Jesus' death and resurrection. However, repenting of sin is something we should be doing every day of the year, not just for the 40 days of Lent.
Rev. Mark Tay