Lent is not everyone’s cup of tea. I find myself at odds with the discipline of this holy season in part because I am not always up to the call of conversion. AND yet, what is Christian life but a constant change of heart, moving from sin to grace, from spiritual antipathy to greater freedom in Christ, from being a yahoo to being the person God the Father wants me to be. Several things come to mind at the beginning of Lent: has the Paschal Mystery (the Lord’s life, death, resurrection & ascension) made a lasting impression on me? Does the Lord’s self-giving open or close the doors of my heart?
In some way there is an impression made on us by the Lord’s Paschal Mystery otherwise we wouldn’t begin the season of Lent with prayer, fasting and almsgiving symbolized by the mark of ash. But a possible danger is allowing the spiritual life to be mired in mere routines and moralisms which kill off a relationship with the Blessed Trinity and with our neighbor. Human nature, however, is a funny thing sometimes. We often think that everyone else is expected to change except for me. While it is the acceptable time to change heart and mind, as the Apostle says, often the practice of change is left to the other person in the pew or the one sharing the bathroom. Therefore there is a disconnect with reality here because of a lack of awareness of hod God is inviting us to new life.
It is our Christian belief, that is, the reality of being a true disciple of the Lord Jesus, that God loved us so much so as to suffer death and to rise three days later for me. The question becomes: does Christ’s death/resurrection make a real difference in my life? How do my attitudes toward an ego-centric sister or a crazy aunt change as a result of this awareness? Do we have a hope based on faith that can show the world there is real, substantial hope in an era where there’s so little trust, love and belief in the hundred-fold promised by the Lord?
God is patient with us via truce he offered and which is spoken of by Saint Benedict. Abbot Placid reminded us at last evening’s Mass, God has provided us
…a truce granted us for this very reason, that we may amend our evil ways. As the Apostle says, “Do you not know that God’s patience is inviting you to repent” (Rom. 2:4)? For the merciful Lord tells us, “I desire not the death of the sinner, but that the sinner should be converted and live” (RB, Prol.).
The hallmarks of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I would contend that every day of our Christian life is marked this way with prayer, sacrifice and charity. So this time of the year is characterized by a more intense living of our commitment to Christ by encountering him in old and perhaps new ways. If we don’t pray at the side of the cross can we really call ourselves Christian? Is there a real obedience (following and listening) to the example Christ gave us? Can we receive give to others the alms of patience, forgiveness and love? Do we have affection for ourselves as a condition for loving others? And can we be intentional in not being controlled by sin and sinful tendencies? Can we remove ourselves from those things that denigrate our dignity as a son and daughter of God, or are we going to exist in a cycle of destructive attitudes and actions? Now is the acceptable time, now is the time to act.