Many people dread the season of Lent as a time of giving up stuff you love – no meat on Fridays, and Father’s homily being about death to self and the sufferings of Christ.
Personally, I’ve always enjoyed the season of Lent. Even when I was young, I loved being asked what I was giving up. Granted, I really only liked it because I got to sleep on the floor by giving up my bed. (I was an odd child). As I grew up, my love for Lent and the message/ idea behind it have also changed. Not to mention, my love and relationship with Christ has drastically changed since I was a wee tot.
As I seek to grow deeper into a relationship, Christ guides me into how I go about this. There have been times in prayer before Lent where Christ opens my heart and I see those areas in my life that are preventing me from deeper communion with Him. At other times, the Gospels guide me in my journey. Both are presently active, but Christ uses a variety of ways to come to us on our path of discipleship. As we seek to become better disciples, we have to lean into the teachings of Christ and how they apply to us more.
The word ‘disciple’ is derived from the Latin word ‘discipulus,’ which means “to teach.” So the word ‘disciple’ means that we are to be taught by the teacher, in our case the Divine Teacher. So like any education we get, there is a certain level of study and practice that go into it.
So how do we practice discipleship? Well, the Latin root for disciple, discipulus, is also where we derive the word ‘discipline.’ As we enter into the core of discipleship, we are to be taught through the disciplines of our life. Christ asks His true disciples to take up their cross and follow Him. I don’t know how many of us have carried a cross but I can imagine that it is quite heavy. For some, this call can be kind of intimidating when in context of a cross, the same Christ that asks us to carry our cross was crucified and killed on one. While many of us won’t become martyrs and literally be put to death for our faith, there is an intense spiritual cross which we bear that relate to those disciplines which we most have to allow Christ to teach us. They come in many forms and very in difficulty per person. But, Christ promises us that those who follow Him that their yokes will be easy and their burdens light, and that in Him they will find rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)
I’ve been learning this lesson in different ways over the years. The discipline of prayer, in reading, in community and to other, as a student and worker. Each brings its own challenge. But in faithfully following Christ into those areas, I’ve found that the paradox of an easy yoke and light burden makes sense. When we seek to fulfill duties and disciplines by ourselves, we end up getting exhausted and worn out. When we enter into daily crosses with Christ on our mind and
seek to follow Him, He continually comes to strengthen and renew us. If we are to be true disciples of Christ we must rely on Him to strengthen and renew us in our disciplines. So, yes. Father’s homilies are going to be about death/ denial of self, but that denial of self gives way to new strength. And, yes. There will be no meat on Friday, but that sacrifice helps unite us to Christ more and strengthens our relationship with Him. And, another yes. For, we will be asked to give Christ those thing that prevent us for coming to Him more fully in a disciplined sacrifice.
“I can do all things through Christ who is my strength” (Phil 4:13)