While the world gorges itself to death the faithful remember that Mardi Gras isn’t about excess and dissipation but preparation. They remember that today is Shrove Tuesday, that today we shrive ourselves and are shriven by our forerunner priest, the man Jesus Christ. It carves out a time for penitent reflection and for absolution, as both will be stars to navigate by in the desert. Today is the day to prepare ourselves for the wilderness of Lent where Christ shares his period of testing with us in order to share his inheritance with us.
Lent isn’t an exercise in bootstrap pulling and it isn’t about scoring righteousness points through ascetism- it’s about participating in the pattern of Christ’s self-emptying. This season invites us to inhabit the life of Jesus as he triumphs where Adam and Israel failed. These forty days draw us out of ourselves (ek-stasis) and into Jesus’ experience of fasting and temptation, not so that we can boast about how much we’ve deprived ourselves, but to actually share that desert victory with him and feel sin’s talons loosening their grip and falling away. Lent isn’t about denial of the world’s goods- it’s about fasting now so that our feasts won’t sink into idolatry. It’s about retraining our taste buds to subordinate our proper love of created things to the mind of Christ that has been given to us. Through it we find the same Spirit who sustained Jesus sustaining us and relieving us of our illusions that our willpower is sufficient to bring us home. Passive surrender and active resistance meet perfectly in the middle as we walk into the desert with Christ and anticipate his light emerging from the test to abolish the dark. Together we will march to the cross. Together we will taste death. And together we will take up new life.