I'm not sure I am really that good at doing Lent. I've written before about how I prefer to see it as a time of growth and renewal rather than of deprivation and guilt. There are quite enough real Lents around without having to play act pain or suffering. I firmly resist doing things like giving up chocolate or alcohol just because I've tried it before an don't personally feel that brings me any closer to God.
What I do try to do in Lent is find a little time to read and pray regularly, and I sometimes pick a theme to meditate on throughout Lent. This year all of that has gone right out of the window simply because, having agreed to cover an absent colleague's classes, there's been no time to do anything. I had planned to mark the start of Lent, as I usually do, by attending the Ash Wednesday service in town but unfortunately I had a meeting on the same evening that didn't end until late. I guess it's not a good enough excuse.
So we were asked today in Church to think about what Jesus would make of our lives at this moment. I have no idea and I am not sure it is an easy question to answer. The gospels contain a warning about people who had looked at their lives through the human lens and genuinely thought they were doing pretty well. I am thinking of the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers or the tax collector or of the rich young ruler, who was probably looking for a bit of a pat on the back for having kept all the commandments, or of Peter when he asked how many times he should forgive, knowing he had the "right" answer.
Lent shouldn't offer a lot of space for complacency, and one of my fears about it is that Lenten discipline can be in itself a kind of egotism- in fact how often do we reflect upon the real danger that religious faith can be a cover for a sort of smug, self satisfied egotism, even when our intentions, our desire to be "good" is well meant? So much of what we do is about ourselves and meeting our own needs even if that is the need to feel righteous or at least less guilty.What is asked of us is mercy and compassion over routine sacrifice and , while I like to fool myself that I am quite good at compassion, it hasn't yet led me to give all I own to the poor...
Lent should strip us bare of our masks and make us recognise how utterly inadequate we are, not because we need to wallow in guilt for the sake of it, more because we need to understand the reality of our collective and personal human frailty. As Jesus once said, "Why do you call me good? Only God is good." Until we acknowledge that we all do Lent, and life, badly, we do not understand our need for the cross or the hope offered by an empty tomb.