We tend to think of Lent as an occasion for self-improvement, (sort of like New Year’s, only without the fun)! Words like ‘repentance,’ and ‘sin’ are not very popular in the U.C.C.! That’s a good thing, because we emphasize opportunities for growth, choosing more life, and making choices for the good of the community. We focus more on the positive, and less on the negative aspects of our faith.
I like that. I think of Jesus focusing always on the dignity and immeasurable worth of each person he encountered. I think of him never ‘putting someone down,’ but always building them up, and reminding them of their value in the eyes of God.
And yet, he called evil, ‘evil.’ When he saw the money changers cheating the poor in the very temple dedicated to God, he told them in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t stand for it. Peter knew the tension between the Romans and the Jews was at an all-time high at Passover, and something was going to explode. When he tried to persuade Jesus not to go to Jerusalem, Jesus looked at him and said, "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus was focused on reality. He knew what he needed to do, and he spoke the truth without mincing words.
So, "Repent, and believe the Good News!" We get bound up in the "Repent" and seem to ignore the "Good News!" ‘Repent’ doesn’t mean ‘drag yourself around feeling sad about your shortcomings.’ It means, "Turn around, and accept a new way of embracing life!" It means, "Accept a new orientation, an orientation towards God!"
What would that mean for us? It isn’t necessarily giving up sweets or snacks or alcohol, (although those could be very life-giving choices). It means, "Look at God first, then see what you’re called to do!" Pray! Think about God sometimes, before making choices, making statements, or choosing attitudes. Recall how much you are loved by God, and how much God loves everyone else.
That is the Good News! That’s it, in a nutshell. We are loved immeasurably – and so is everyone else. Happy Lent!