Our Ninety Day Challenge

I am already being bombarded with reminders from various religious websites that Lent is only around the corner (Ash Wednesday is 22nd February). I am being encouraged to subscribe to their Lenten courses or buy a book that will help me keep Lent well.

Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York have published Lent books for this year and the Church of England have a Lenten Campaign called “Dust and Glory” for groups to be involved. Our own Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark has a Lenten retreat, led by Archbishop John Wilson, that you can follow online called “Renewed in Hope”.

All this begs the question, Why are we doing all this? What is the purpose of these six weeks? In the end, we might feel holier, and closer to God. I believe it is important to realise that the whole purpose of the Lent journey of six weeks is to enable us to prepare to celebrate the greatest feast of the Church’s year, Easter.

Lent is only the first part of the liturgical season. It only makes sense if we see this as the first part of 90 days. Lent ends on the Thursday afternoon of Holy Week and we then begin the Triduum, that is the three days of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday of the Passion and the Easter Vigil on Saturday night when we are joined with all those who are to be baptised at Easter.

At the Vigil or on Easter day we renew our baptismal promised: “Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts’, the ‘Solemnity of Solemnities’, just as the Eucharist is the ‘Sacrament of sacraments’ ”(Catechism of the Catholic Church (1169)).

The Season of Easter ends with the feast of Pentecost. We are journeying from Ashes to Easter and then seven weeks till Pentecost. This is a time for us to become truly the people that God has called us to be. When we receive the ashes, we hear the words, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

We are invited to recognise sin in our lives, we seek conversion and reconciliation with our loving God and with one another. This whole season is a time to change our hearts and honestly look at ourselves and seek to grow in our relationship with Jesus and the church. You now have ninety days to ponder how you are going live the Forty Days of Lent, the three days of the Triduum (which is seen as one day), and the seven weeks of Easter.

Don’t be over-ambitious. Don’t try to do too much. It is better to do one thing well.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest