Leading up to the season of Lent it isn’t uncommon to hear, "What are you giving up for Lent?” For many, the season of Lent is a time to "give something up,” while this sacrifice is good I cannot help but wonder “to what end?” If the practice is simply an act of self-discipline, giving up coffee, snacking, chocolate, complaining, alcohol, TV, or Facebook - all fine choices - I’m not sure what will fill those minutes and hours. More work or busyness? No thanks. However, if the result of the sacrifice is a better, more joy-filled life lived out of gratitude for deliverance from a destitute state, cutting the ties that bind…then yes!
In today’s passage Jesus meets an invalid/disabled man lying at the pool of Bethesda who has been in this state for 38 years. Jesus asks the man, “Do you want to get well?” My thought: “What-kind-a-question-is-that?!” His response shows a hesitancy, possibly some self-pity: "but sir...I can't get there fast enough...and no one will help me." Jesus: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” An act in faith to leave behind the life, rhythms, habits of the heart he had known for so long - and he walked.
These weeks of Lent are a time of prayer, penance, sacrifice, but also of reconciliation. We are freely given new life in Christ and invited to be made well, to be whole, by moving toward the heart of God with a single-focus for Jesus, looking toward the cross-the ultimate sacrifice.
“So when in this Lenten time we repent of our shallow and sinful lives, we also intercede for others who suffer from many temptations and wounds. And when we do so, we want to pave the way for your love and your Spirit to fill them, anticipating for them and us the great wonder of a victorious Christ.” (“The Lenten Prayer” from Prayers Public and Personal by Art Nelson, page 53)