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Beginning Lent

The Rt Revd Paul Ferguson, Bishop of Whitby, reflects on the beginning of our journey of Lent.

A few months ago, some of us marked the centenary of the consecration of the first Bishop of Whitby by a four-day walk from Whitby to Lastingham (pictured). On the way, we noticed different things, met different people, and had different conversations. But we were all on the same journey.

For me, Lent is rather like that. We are all on the same Bible journey from Jesus’s baptism and testing in the wilderness to his arrest and death. As Jesus lived out his utter devotion to God the Father and his self-giving love for humankind, so we — if we accept the call to growing more like Christ — can use this time to hold a mirror up to our relationship with Jesus, and ask whether we really look like people who know that we belong to God.

We can do this in different ways. For example, one is to give time to reviewing each day, giving thanks for the signs of God’s glory we have seen in people, places, experiences, and asking ‘How has my walk with God been today?’

Another is to take the Sunday gospel readings, and give generous time to imagining ourselves in the crowd, journeying with Jesus, amazed at what he has done and said.

What about thinking afresh about our prayer life, or our giving? And although for some people doing without treats in Lent might seem quaint, actually it can be a way of challenging ourselves about whether we control our likes and preferences, or whether they control us. 

So I hope that we could positively welcome Lent. Lent is a serious time, but it’s not a gloomy time. Lent is a time for being realistic about our sinful failure to follow the will of God, but (like the whole of a healthy Christian faith) it’s not about being loaded with crushing, useless guilt — it’s a time for being open to God’s forgiveness, and celebrating his love. 

Is ‘doing Lent’ easy? Like anything that has a note of discipline about it, very likely not. But it’s a valuable few weeks, and I hope you have a truly blessed Lent this year.