Ever since the earliest times Christians have entered into an extended season of preparation for the celebration of the resurrection (Easter) as a powerful opportunity to grow more like Jesus. This season of preparation eventually came to be formalized (325AD) as a 40-day season that we now call Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Maundy Thursday. The forty days of Lent echo a handful of significant biblical stories involving 40 days: Jesus fasting in the wilderness, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Jonah preaching repentance in Nineveh, and more.
The spirit of Lent can be characterised by three values – humility, transparency and solidarity, which when all taken together lead to a fourth: growth. One of the foundations of the Cornerstone Team is growing, becoming more like Jesus. Lent, therefore, gives us a great opportunity to grow in our faith and deepen our relationship with the Lord Jesus. A key part of Lent is that we do it together with Christian brothers and sisters from all around the world. This solidarity, which we experience at St Catharine’s, but also with believers all over the world, reminds us that our growing to be more like Jesus is not a solitary or individual exercise.
Lent is a special season of transparency, a time for us to honestly reflect on our sin, our neediness, our patterns of dysfunction and disobedience. It’s a time for reconciliation with others and humility before God as reflected in the above values. In this booklet you will find a weekly Examen – an ancient spiritual exercise of daily reflection. Since Lent is a season to particularly focus on our sin, these Examen’s will be based upon the seven deadly sins, a framework that might not be too familiar to us, but is a really helpful one for us to examine our own hearts. The questions will be searching and one’s we may never have even thought of before.
Each weekly Examen is designed to be done each day. At the end of the day find 5-10 minutes to sit quietly and work through the questions for that week, speaking to God and asking him by His Holy Spirit to reveal areas of your life that Jesus needs to change. For example, for this first week reflect on the questions for sloth as you see helpful. In the final week there are two Examens – greed and pride.
Another practice that you might wish to do during Lent is that of fasting. Often people speak in terms of giving up something that is generally considered good (not sinful) for the purpose of cultivating something that is great (a deeper relationship with Jesus). It could be alcohol, chocolate, coffee, listening to music, favourite TV show etc. The Holy Spirit can lead you in this. The idea is that fasting from these is intended to make us more aware of the goodness of that gift. When you miss something, you become more thankful for it. Fasting also opens up time to seek God more while providing the opportunity to reveal what is not rightly ordered about our affections or attachments.
I really hope and pray that this Lent we use this time to deepen and grow our relationship with Jesus, remembering our sin but also rejoicing in the forgiveness we have in Christ and that the Holy Spirit will change us. On the one hand we should be doing this all year round, but it is good to have a special focus at this time.