Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like a child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. – from C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”
Far too often the picture we have of Lent is marked by deprivation and negativity. It is seen as a season for self-effacement and self-denial for their own sakes. But this misses the point, or at the very least substitutes the means for the end. Lent is ultimately about joy, a level of joy and wholeness of which the human mind can only begin to dream. The disciplines of fasting, prayer, and giving to which this season calls us are ultimately about preparing our bodies, minds, and hearts to receive holy joy at a level that will astound us, a level to which we rarely have access when going about life as usual. The letting go that Lent encourages is like dropping out of our hands the silver coin to which we’ve been clinging so tightly so that God can press into our palms a gold one. We deny ourselves not because we are evil creatures in need of punishment but because we are ones that God called very good in the beginning of creation, seeking to live ever more into that lofty identity.