We are a Lenten people.

Jesus was tested for forty days in the wilderness of Judea. He rejected the devil and chose God’s will – the way of the cross.

Each year we set aside forty days to struggle with greater intensity against everything that leads us away from love of God and neighbor. We call this time Lent.

“Lent” comes from the Latin word which means “springtime,” the time of the year when the days lengthen. This is a time when we concentrate on repentance and spiritual growth in preparation for our Easter celebration.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. A cross is made with ashes on our foreheads. The ashes are a reminder of our mortality as well as a sign of our penitence.

Lent originated in the early church as a time of preparation for Baptism on Easter Eve. For us, Lent is a time of preparing for Easter by reflecting on the meaning of our Baptism. We contemplate our baptismal dying to the old life of sin and rising to the new life in Jesus Christ.

We confess our failure to live in the covenant of our Baptism, our failure to live the life our Creator intended for us. Our sin separates us from God, from our neighbors, and from all creation. We pray, “Graciously cleanse us from all sin and make us strong.”

Lent is a time of spiritual cleansing, of prayer, and of growth in faith. . . a time of returning to the Lord our God, who is gracious and merciful and abounding in steadfast love.

After our forty days as a Lenten people, we will move from darkness to light, from repentance to forgiveness, from ashes to Easter. . . and we will live as God’s Easter people.