Christians tell the same story over and over even though we know how it ends. We dread the execution even as we anticipate the resurrection. The wisdom of our tradition asserts that our path is not a line but a circle—or a spiral.
As we turn from Epiphany to Lent we leave the joy and wonder of the incarnation, moving from revelation and recognition to the hard work of repentance.
Forgetting that we were created for joy, many of us wrongly equate repentance with renouncing pleasure. We act as if our greatest sins were watching too much TV or eating too many chocolates. By “giving them up for Lent,” we continue to participate in the culture of consumption and individualism with a program of self-improvement.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Repentance is an absolute, spiritual decision made in truthfulness. Its motivations are remorse for the past and responsibility for the future.” Could this be so for us?
On the surface, it might not look so different. We might still put down the chocolate bar and turn off the television, but we might also talk about our cultural addiction to spectacle, or forced child labor in the chocolate industry. Lent might look different if together we supported and created alternative media. And, rather than trading our sodas for bottled water, we stood with indigenous women defending their sacred waters.
The purpose of our fasting during Lent is to lead us, like Jesus, to hunger only for God and, like Jesus to choose to serve God alone.