Lent, A Preparation for Joy


Lent, A Preparation for Joy
By Fr. Boniface Endorf, O.P.

Ash Wednesday enters us into the season of Lent, a time of penance as preparation for Easter. But how does penance prepare us for joy? It’s certainly a countercultural approach. We’re taught by the world that we should always seek to have a good time, and penance is not anyone’s idea of a good time. We want pleasure and we want it now!

We all like a good time, it’s true, but our hearts long for more than simply feeling good. We want a joy not dependent on having a good time, but rather joy that flows from something deeper than feeling, deeper than fortune, a joy that comes from the fulfillment of all we are, a joy that cannot be lost or taken away, a joy that shines through the whole of our being. That joy comes from being rooted in something deeper than ourselves. It comes from being rooted in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Himself: being rooted in God.

That is why Jesus says “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The path to joy starts with repentance. In this fallen world, none of us starts on the path that leads to joy, and everyone needs God’s grace to convert, to turn away from sin and head towards God. If I walk a mile the wrong way down a trail in the woods, to reach the right track I have to do the “penance” of backtracking over my mistaken route. By penance we undo the bad habits we’ve developed, which frees us to walk the way of the Gospel. Penance is not the goal, but the route. Through penance comes holiness, through Lent comes Easter. The way to salvation leads not just to the cross but through the cross. We travel through Lent, the season of the cross, in hope of salvation, the joy of Easter. So, while Lent may not always feel like a ‘good time,’ it is a Good Time in that it leads to the Best Time: eternal life in heaven.

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