My hope for all of us this Lent is that we may find our faith renewed and find ourselves growing in the love of God. Yet, I am aware that even in my own spiritual life that Lent can have an opposite effect. I can feel burdened by a fast or other discipline I have undertaken. If I break the fast or am inconsistent in keeping to a discipline I can feel like Lent was awash. This is a temptation of Lent and of the spiritual disciplines in general. An other temptation can be to be quite proud of our being able to keep our fast or other discipline through out Lent. I think there are in these temptations a positive and negative impulses. In the positive both can be born out of a desire to follow in the way of Christ perfectly, For we know as our closing hymn on Sunday says "Forty Days and forty night thou was fasting in the wild; forty day and forty nights tempted, and yet undefiled." (#150 Hymnal 1982, Episcopal Church). We want to be "undefiled", yet this desire turns into a work that we feel we must do. We then become burdened and either stumble under this burden or become prideful that we have carried this burden.
So Lent can become quite distressing and especially so, as our Lenten discipline brings to light sins or failings we have and we then encounter them in stark relief, which is suited to a time of repentance and self-examination. However, if we have succumbed thus seeing Lent as a time of Spiritual accomplishment and perfection, finding our dark selves rising to the surface can lead to confusion and distress. The closing hymn from this past Sunday offers us the solution to these attitudes: "Then if Satan on us press, Jesus, Savior, hear our call! Victor in the wilderness, grant we may not faint or fall!" We are not the victors in this wilderness, nor is it upon our own resources that we are to rely in Lent or the Spiritual life, but upon Christ who is the Victor and who has fulfilled the Law and all the requirements of the Spiritual life. If we are to find ourselves perfected it is in reliance on and faith in Christ. We are to rely on Christs strength having faith that Christ has already overcome and is victorious.
So in a sense Lent is nothing special, in our life of faith. What applies to Lent always applies. We keep Lent because it can help us refocus and return to our call and to that reliance on Christ, which is our faith. We undertake these disciplines and we fast, we take this time to focus intently on our Spiritual life and our selves so that we may open ourselves ever more to the tranforming power of the Resurrection. We enter a desert and intensify our struggles with ourselves and sin and temptation, not to make ourselves perfect but to be perfected by God, as we are formed ever more into the image of Christ. A subtle distinction but one essential for a Holy Lent and for our entire spiritual journey in this life.