A few months ago it was Christmas. And now Lent and Easter are around the corner. For retailers and shoppers these are seasons of opportunity, to buy and to sell and to make money. In the days of Noah, and those of Sodom and Gomorrah people lived as most of us do today, preoccupied with buying and selling. Oblivious of tomorrow. Unconcerned with what was right and wrong. Each one trying to do his own thing.
In our neo-pagan culture (which is worse, because having been exposed to Christ’s Gospel, it has rejected it) little mention is made in the commercials about Lent. Except, perhaps, in the Churches and the Liturgy
Depressing for many.
Even for some who call ourselves Christian, is it not a case of: “Same old messages? Ashes. Breast beating. Mea Culpas. Christ’s crucifixion. Reminders that life is uncertain and death inevitable. Reminders too of human waywardness. Grey invitation to fasting, abstinence, self-restraint, the education of conscience. A call to say ‘No’ to many attractive things the world has to offer. There also is the invitation to renewal. To observe and live by the Ten Commandments. To understand and to receive the sacraments. To be faithful to the teaching of the Church. To come to know and to love Jesus. To be true to Christ. To try to be holy.”
What a life! O, kill joy! I have heard all this before. Please do not give me any of this stuff about sin, etc. Or, at least not just now.
O.K, this is Lent. Perhaps the Church has something here. So, why not try to be good, or a little better? Within limits, of course. Placate God. At least in thought and in word. Attend Sunday Mass? Sometimes. Keep the Commandments of God?. Surely, not the lot! As for not yielding to illicit urges of the belly and of the tongue, do not push me. Genuine forgiveness of those who have wronged me? I pass. The hurt and the insult I have endured have gone too deep. Confession? Forget it. But, yes. I am a Catholic. A good sort at heart. But I am so busy. Hardly any time to relax. Life with blinkers on is much more comfortable. So make believe that all’s well, or will be well.
Season of Promise and God’s Mercy
Have I missed something? Is this what Lent is really about? The Church through the Liturgy and her teachings tells us that this is really a blessed, gifted and precious time. A time to (re-) discover God’s love for me, for us. Love manifested in Christ Jesus’ life, his words, and His wisdom. In whom abound the compassion, the mercy, the tears, the tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father. The Eternal God, Who continually assures us of His undying love. That in Jesus, He who died for us is our destiny. Our prize. That He seeks us. That, however murky or foul my past and present, and however weak I may be, His healing love and strength new life await me, await us, await all humanity. He needs my ‘Yes’. Our ‘Yes’, with which comes a new dawn, with Christ as our Sun, bringing healing, peace and growth. O, am I so wedded to my selfishness and my pride as to be closed to all this? Am I so insensitive, shallow, ungrateful and foolish not to respond with open and thankful heart to my Saviour?
In Christ, I am offered and can have the best of both worlds. The world of the spirit, where I may walk carefree with God, and with a clean conscience. And in the world of matter created and blessed by the One who found it good: a world to be lived in, not scorned? But isn’t it a world that has to be blessed, converted and transformed, with me, with us as instruments of God and as witnesses of Christ’s Gospel? True, there will be crosses and hardships, but with Him these can be endured and transcended and become sources of blessing and peace for a world drowning in its sin and sinfulness.
Q & A
Do I ask: What holds me back from the way God calls? My sinful self? And how, amid the noise and clamour of a world at cross purposes, might this be changed? Don’t answers lie in confidence that with God all things are possible?
May we not fruitfully try some of these?
1. Humble listening and continual thanksgiving to God? At all times, in all circumstances? Fair weather or foul.
2. Prayer, not just words, but from the heart? For grace, strength and perseverance.
3. Realisation that we live in a sinful world? In a milieu where society is sucked deeper and deeper into the quicksands of error and corruption. And justifies and exults in it.
4. Recognition of what sin is? Not blinding ourselves to it?
5. Acknowledgement of personal sin? And that sin is not merely deliberate engagement in gross wickedness, but also slothful indifference to goimg along paths that ultimately lead to violation of God’s word .
6. Contrition for our sins? And fasting and abstinence from sin and its occasion? [‘Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord, your God again, He is all tenderness and compassionâ€¦Joel 2:13]
7. Truer knowledge of ourselves: our strengths and weaknesses, especially spiritual ones?
8. Being honest before God, without making excuses for our sins?
9. Deepening our knowledge of our faith and the Gospel.
10. Choosing wisely between Christ and what is not of God? And persevering in it. With love, and in a spirit of peace
Prayer (Here’s one to make our own)
“Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.”
(c) St.Thomas Aquinas