Whether you associate Lent with “giving up” something desirable, or “doing without,” Ash Wednesday releases a flood of memories from childhood, recalling the seriousness with which I put gifts of candy in a glass jar in the dining room cabinet as a Lenten sacrifice, to be enjoyed at Easter.
That childhood practice was so clear in expressing the Lenten call, clear and to the point. Somehow this was to make God happy. That memory renews that childlike practice and perhaps calls for a change of perspective–or at least to entertain another idea about Lenten preparation for Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. Lent is always a good time to take stock of what needs changing or becoming in my grown-up life.
Perhaps a completely other angle would be helpful. What do I want God to do in me? And, what do I want God to see in me and do for me? In other words, look at our Lenten practice from God’s point of view.
And specifically, God’s point of view as seen in the God who came among us and told us what God wanted of us and shows us. Reading the Gospels, we are shown how God responds to people. When Jesus saw the blind man, he wanted to cure him, and he gave sight. When he saw hunger, he wanted to—and did–feed people. When he confronted a cast-off from society, an untouchable, a leper, his heart was moved, and he touched the untouchable, restoring him. When the woman from outside his religious traditions appealed for a cure, he rebuffed her as being different, outside the tradition. Not taking that refusal as final, she responded so skillfully. So delighted was he that he praised her deep conviction of faith in him, wanted to, and did, praise her–and cured. He saw the need, he saw her faith in him, and he acted.
As Jesus works these miracles he asks “Do you believe I can do this?” or “Your faith has made you whole.” Faith in him enables the healing or the changing what seemed unchangeable or being able to find him in this encounter.