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A Lingering Lent

By The Ven David Gunn-Johnson

Well here we are, just over halfway through Lent and for some, especially those who have set themselves a rigorous programme of self-denial, the closer Easter gets the better. Is life dominated by a longing for that first taste of chocolate; that first sip of crisp Muscadet; for a mouthful of whatever is on the banned list? That is, of course, for those who are still hanging in there.

Forgive me, self-denial is a good and laudable discipline, but longing for Lent to be over for such reasons is to miss the point rather. Back to basics. The choice of forty days for Lent was no accident. In the case of Lent it echoes Jesus’ experience in the wilderness, being tested. However, the Bible is absolutely woven through with forties – days – weeks – years and in almost every case forty does not mean forty. For example, the forty years the children of Israel spent in the wilderness was simply a period before which the Apiru (from which we get the words ‘Hebrew’ and ‘Arab’) were a nomadic people and after which they were settled farmers. The forty days Jesus spent being tested in the desert was the time during which his vision of who he was and what his priorities were, crystallised into his mission. In just these two cases, and in the many more we find in the Bible, there was a before and an after. For the children of Israel, the after was symbolised by The Promised Land. For Jesus the after was embarking on his public ministry, that first step on the road to Calvary. 

Therefore, when I examine my own observance of Lent, I need to ask myself, “What of my life in the before needed to change, and where will the evidence of a good Lent be shown in that which comes after” Quite simply, “Will I be, in any sense, a better disciple of Jesus Christ?”