Growing up Catholic, Lent meant the forty days that I would spend avoiding pop (Pittsburghese for “soda,” if you didn’t know) and eating fried fish on Fridays, or sometimes cheese pizza.
Growing up in Catholic school, Lent meant going to mass on a Wednesday and getting ashes put on my forehead, and doing the Stations of the Cross every week.
Growing up Catholic, Lent didn’t mean anything different on the weekends—we always went to mass on Saturday. We’d even choose the midnight Easter Vigil mass over Easter Sunday to avoid the insane crowd.
But unfortunately, growing up Catholic didn’t work for me. I didn’t hear the Gospel until I went to college. Even though I went to private school and church every week, my heart didn’t belong to God. It belonged to myself and no one else.
It wasn’t until I heard and understood and believed in the Gospel that I began to understand that Lent is about more than just giving something up, though I still have a hard time articulating what Lent is really about. It wasn’t until a few years into my walk with Christ that I realized Easter—not Christmas—is by far the most important Christian celebration. You see, we are all born, just as Jesus was. However, He’s the only one who has risen from the dead. Without Easter, our faith means nothing.
Without Easter, there is no Gospel.
Guys, do you cherish the Gospel? How do you react when you hear this? How do you feel when you read that God loves us, but all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)?
You probably feel pretty crappy, huh? Nothing like being told you deserve to die.
But how do you feel when you read that because God loves us, He sent Jesus to die in our place, the death that we deserve (John 3:16)?
Do you feel relief? Or do you feel even crappier?
How do you feel when you read that it’s by grace and grace alone that you are saved, through faith (Ephesians 2:8)?
Again, do you feel relief? Or do you feel even crappier? How do you respond to this scandalous situation? How is it fair that Jesus—the only human who didn’t deserve death because He was perfect—had to die for us?
How does this make you feel?
There’s a B.C. comic I love and always share around Easter (which is ironic, considering it’s a B.C.—Before Christ—comic). The first caveman says he hates the title of “Good Friday” because it’s the day His Lord was hanged on a tree. The second caveman responds, “If you were going to be hanged on that day, and He volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?”
“Good,” the first caveman answers.
How does this make you feel?
Sisters (and brothers), if the reality of the Gospel doesn’t take our breath away—if it doesn’t make us feel good, grand, loved, beautiful, redeemed, valued, excited, and a host of other positive adjectives (and perhaps some humbling adjectives)—do we even believe it?
What would life look like if we acted like we really, truly believe this?
Maybe it would look a lot like Lent—whatever that means.