Self-reflection penitence are long-standing traditions in many faiths and cultures. There seems to be a common understanding that human beings are flawed and need periodic adjustments to live good and faithful lives.
This week marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent.
Lent includes the 47 days leading up to Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is actually 40 days plus seven Sundays. (Remember that 40 is the number of days Jesus fasted and spent time in the dessert seeking God.)
Other faiths have similar traditions.
Muslims celebrate Ramadan, a month of fasting, charitable giving and prayer in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is also during this time that many make their pilgrimage to Mecca to participate in the Hajj, a trip every Muslim must make at least once during their lifetime. During the Hajj, Muslims engage in purification and unity. The Arabic word Tawbah literally means, “turning around.”
In addition to celebrating Passover, Jews participate in the Days of Awe, ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is a time for serious reflection, a chance to consider the previous year, and to repent. The Scriptures (what Christians call the Old Testament) concept of repentance means to literally a 180-degree turn towards God.
According to the website, Judaism 101, “Among the customs of this time, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. The Talmud maintains that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible.”*
During Lent, many people (especially Catholics) give up something they enjoy, like sugar, alcohol or movies. These are types of fasts.
Lent is not a time to prove to God that you love Him (or manipulate Him to love you–because She/He already does), rather it’s a time to reflect, search your soul, and make amends. If fasting is something that is meaningful to you, then do it. But more important is to reflect, pray, and perhaps engage in rituals (such as Lenten services). It might be a good time to go on a spiritual retreat.
Find a resource that will be helpful for reflection and meditation. It’s good to take time to reconnect with your spiritual center, reflect on the past and renew your soul.
Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostration