Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins the 40-day discipline of Lent for many Christians (more common to Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans): a time of fasting, prayer, and self-examination before Resurrection Sunday. While the “holiday” is not to be found in the Bible (neither is Christmas or Easter), it seems to me the sentiment it carries is cross-centered: a time for Christians to identify with the sufferings of Christ.
Unfortunately, the day before Ash Wednesday is “Fat Tuesday,” the last day of Mardi Gras—an oddly pagan celebration devoted to overindulgence and revelry before the days of deprivation begin. For those who practice such licentiousness leading up to Lent, it is the greatest of hypocrisies. And perhaps for that reason, many of us who grew up non-Catholic never participated in Lent. But I think we may have “thrown out the baby with the bathwater” [forgive the expression].
The basic idea of Lent is rooted in the Lord's 40 days in the wilderness and temptation by Satan. So Lent reminds us how Jesus was tempted in all ways like as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). Now who can fault that! And what better time than these days leading up to Easter to examine ourselves to see if we are being faithful to His calling (2 Cor. 13:5; 2 Pe. 1:10). It seems to me that Lent is not an event as much as it is a state of mind to be cultivated—on any Wednesday.