Article for the March edition of The Hillside Messenger
“Drawing closer to God through Lent”
In our Lord’s farewell discourses to his disciples as recorded in the Gospel according to St. John, St. Thomas asks the question (John 14:5), “ Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” To this, the Lord replies, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, KJV). The Christian way (including the Anglican way) is a journey to God the Father through the Son in the power of and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the way of life, in contrast to the way of death. The beginning of the Christian Way is the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, in which a person turns from sin, believes in God the Blessed Trinity, and receives Jesus Christ as Lord (John 1:12), or these vows are taken on his behalf by his parents and godparents, and he affirms them himself during the Sacrament of Confirmation. In effect, then, Christians, by receiving Christ as Lord and vowing to follow Him for the rest of their lives on earth, have begun their journey to God and to the fullness of his eternal kingdom. To be in union with Christ through Baptism is to be already in Him who is the way, the truth and the life. Since this is the case, one might ask, how can Lent, being a liturgical season, and historical tradition of the Church, assist the Christian on this journey?
Lent is a season when God, through the Church and its readings, prayers and special services, as well as through their devout but willing exercise of spiritual discipline as part of their whole worship, recalls the faithful to the heart of the Christian faith and way of life. The call to prayer and fasting or abstinence is not a call to a discipline that is empty of meaning, but one that is rich in meaning and value for all who undertake it, since we shall find that it strengthens us in prayer and in the exercise of our faith. It helps us by strengthening us also “to follow the blessed steps of Christ’s most holy life” (Collect for the Second Sunday after Easter, p. 171, Book of Common Prayer, 1928).
In Lent, the faithful are given the grace of the opportunity to reflect on the heart of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Am I really following the way that is the Lord Jesus Christ?” one may ask. Someone may answer, “I am, since I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is all I need to do. I am saved by faith and grace alone.” It is indeed true that we are saved by faith and grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), but it is also true that after first coming to faith and receiving God’s forgiveness and free gift of righteousness, we are called to do what is right, for St. John wrote: “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 John 3:7, KJV). Following the way of life means entering by the narrow gate of faith in Christ and walking the hard road of obedience to his call. During Lent, the Church gives us the time to examine ourselves to see that we are really walking in the way of life, and that we have genuinely returned to Jesus Christ, the “Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25c).
Through the disciplines of prayer, meditation, reading and reflection on passages of the Bible, and by every other means God chooses to speak to us, we arrive at a deeper knowledge of Christ who is the Truth, as well as the truth about our own lives from his perspective.