The inconveniently necessary Lent

Katie Prejean McGrady

I hate Lent.

I don't like the color. I'm much more a green and white than a purple and gray type of gal.

I don't like the music. Everything is in a minor key, somberly plodding along like we're all walking to our grave.

I don't like the length of the season. Forty days is just awkward. Be a month or be nothing.

But most of all: I don't like the demands. I don't like having to give something up (and in the age of social media, feel the need to tell everyone what I'm sacrificing). I don't like having to do something else. I'm busy enough as it is, and I think I'm plenty generous! And I certainly don't like the extra prayer I'm expected to do. I think I do enough of that already.

Lent is a season of inconvenience, and that's precisely why we need it.

The things I find inconvenient and unenjoyable about Lent -- the drab colors and somber music and demands to fast, pray and give alms -- remind me of the inconvenience of the cross and the remarkable gift of Christ's sacrifice.

There's nothing convenient about death, especially one to which you are condemned, having done nothing to deserve it. There's nothing convenient about carrying a cross up a steep path surrounded by people mocking and tormenting you. There's nothing convenient about having nails driven into your hands and feet, and then gasping for breath as you're exposed for all to see, your own mother standing there weeping.

There is nothing convenient or enjoyable about the death of Our Lord Jesus. And thus, it is immensely inconvenient and remarkably uncomfortable to spend 40 days thinking about it, and preparing to think about it even more.

But when I do think about it, even just for a brief moment, I'm reminded that the path he walked and the cross he carried, the wounds he bore and the humiliation he endured, while entirely inconvenient for him, is absolutely necessary for me.

The inconvenient death of Christ is the means of my salvation, and while I may not want to ponder or dwell on it because it makes me uncomfortable, it is essential that I do, so as to recognize the gift.

Lent is the time we're given to think on this remarkably mysterious thing: that the God of the universe would send his only begotten Son to die on a cross for a world full of people that largely reject, ignore, criticize and mock him.

For 40 days, in her wisdom and under her guidance, the church asks us to pray a bit more -- to set aside time to actually talk to this God who died for us. The church asks us to make intentional, purposeful sacrifices -- whether big or small, a soda or social media, to give something up so as to do something greater. The church invites us to be generous -- to give, freely, of our time, talent and treasure.

And while I don't necessarily like any of that, I can't say I hate any of it either. Sure, those sacrifices are a challenge to make, and finding time to pray even more makes me think I'm busier than I actually am. There's effort, inconvenient and difficult, but ultimately virtue-building and sanctifying effort.

There's certainly nothing pleasant about it, and no one necessarily "looks forward" to these 40 days (we have the entire Mardi Gras season in Louisiana so we can party in preparation for all the somberness of Lent, after all). But Lent gives us the chance to settle into the inconvenience so we can be reminded of the necessity of Christ's inconvenient, yet perfect, sacrifice.

Katie Prejean McGrady is an international Catholic speaker and author. She has her degree in theology from the University of Dallas and lives with her husband and daughter in Lake Charles, Louisiana.