“The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.” Wikipedia
Wikipedia is probably not to be considered the highest authority for Christian practices, but the above quote is a fairly good description of how Christians have historically observed Lent. I’m not exactly sure what ‘doing penance’ and ‘mortifying the flesh’ are all about (superbly beneficial no doubt) but the rest are relatively straightforward. Taking a look at those, however, you may well ask whether they are not disciplines that ought to characterize the life of a follower of Jesus throughout the year, not just for six weeks? Answer: yes they are.
That being said, what we ought to do and what we do do are not always one and the same. Perhaps setting aside a season of the year to focus on repenting, praying, giving and denying ego is a good exercise to remind us of our path and restart us on some good habits.
It seems clear that the idea of denying ‘ego’ is based on Jesus’ saying: “If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matt. 16:24f The word ‘life’ here is from the Greek ‘psyche’ and means ‘soul’ or ‘self’ and carries the modern sense of ‘ego’. In a world where egos reign supreme Jesus is asking a lot. Jesus utterly denied his own ego, or self-interest, when he went to the cross for us and he certainly calls upon us, in some measure, to do likewise.
Jesus did not promise us an easy life but he did promise an abundant life. Others will not walk this path, but Jesus walks it with us. There is a cost to following Jesus, but he paid the greater price. These considerations are what Lent is all about. Come and remember our Saviour and his suffering as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper on March 1st, the first Sunday in Lent.
In Christ’s love,