The End and Means of Lent

We come, once again, to the holy season of Lent! Just as before the joy of the Resurrection there was the pain of the Passion; so too before the 50 days of Easter celebration, there are 40 days of Lenten testing.

As in the Book of Job in the Old Testament, we may wonder why we have to face suffering and temptation, but like Job we come to trust that our good and gracious God can bring good out of all things. We who have the full revelation of Christ know that it’s because of God’s love, that He has sanctified suffering by His death for the sake of joy and life. That is to say that, with our God, joy and life always triumph, but always because of a love which costs something.

So what is the point of this season of Lent? We know the means—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—but what is the end? The goal of Lent is the same goal as for all Christian life: the joy of friendship with God (see 1 John 1:3). This friendship is begun, even in this world, through the imitation of Christ (Catechism 1693-1694). There are many ways of imitating Christ, but all Christians share in a single, fundamental call: to love God and neighbor, and to do so through self-renunciation.

All of life is meant for friendship with God, and this is achieved through conformity to Christ, and this is done by imitating His self-renouncing love, especially in the many wonderful but difficult practices of Lent.

Let us then take up our Lenten practices with joy, knowing that by doing so, we’re walking in the company of our greatest Friend, the Lord.