Lent is not a punch card. It is not a ticket to heaven. It is not dues paying or making deposits in some holy account.
Lent, in the briefest way, means 40 Days. In the longer way it means this.
Productivity experts tell us that it takes more than 30 days to make something a habit. Some say 66.
Anyway, I think that’s the point of Lent for me in terms of my spiritual life. It’s making me look at my habits and asking me to add a few that will aid my faith and help me break the sinful habits. It’s like me staring at Jesus in the desert who is staring down temptation. It’s making me stronger. But only if Jesus is with me to give me courage. And the only way he is going to do that is if I’m faithful to the church which gives me the graces I need, since I’m not very courageous on my own.
Honestly, there are many days that I want my Lent to be a ticket that I punch. That way I don’t have to enter into it fully. It can become something that I check off my to-do list.
Sorry, Pat. It ain’t a to-do list.
It’s more like a to be list.
Honestly, I’m so much better at the doing thing.
This is much more than a Martha vs Mary struggle. I understand that message. And trust me, what I’m thinking about is way more than putting Christ above housework and people about things. I understand those priorities. It must now be Christ always. First always. Not first mostly… This is about how fast do I want to conform to Christ? How quick am I to obey for love of Him? How long will it take for his cruciform to appear in me?
This little meditation from the Magnificat stopped me cold yesterday morning. It is anti-ticket punch. It is antithesis of the gold star mentality of earning our way to heaven, or at least earning our way through Lent. It’s about full on entering into being the one Jesus is recreating us to be. To let Jesus be in me that I might become more like him, to imitate him with greater proficiency and more in line with his thinking, his ways.
And guess what? It positively will not happen without the Church and what the Church prescribes for me, not only this Lent, but always.
Sometimes we take up the attitude vis-à-vis the Church of someone who is looking for a certificate of good behavior. But the Church doesn’t supervise: she exists and we exist within her. She is the Body of Christ and we are members of the Body. Our dependence on her and our commitment to her, if they entail external acts or signs, are above all an internal and vital dependence and commitment. Our dependence on the body that she is, is considerable.
But our initiative, our responsibility, and our function are also considerable. We are designed as irreplaceable parts of the Church. Both our submissions and our initiatives are matters of obedience, as they would be for a body’s cells…
We don’t make good on obedience with a prayer said at Mass, with a devotion to a priest or to a movement. We don’t even make good on it with a faithful life of the sacraments, or with a fervent life of prayer, but rather by carrying our sacramental life and our prayer life wherever they must go, all the way to the end for which they were made.
- Servant of God Madeleine Delbrêl (from We, the Ordinary People of the Streets)
Wherever they must go, all the way to the end for which they were made. That is purpose of Lent. Because that is the purpose of faith… that we might be in a relationship with the One who called us to be.
But let me tell you, I repeat: I cannot be all that I am to be without the Body of Christ, the Church. I cannot make it without grace.
It is the Church that believes first, and so bears, nourishes and sustains my faith. Everywhere, it is the Church that first confesses the Lord: “Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you”, as we sing in the hymn “Te Deum”; with her and in her, we are won over and brought to confess: “I believe”, “We believe”. It is through the Church that we receive faith and new life in Christ by Baptism. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 168)
There is one tiny little prayer that priest offers at Mass before the Sign of Peace. Maybe you know it. It is a great consolation to me:
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you. Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever. (Emphasis mine.)
I am always praying that in some way. Every day. Look not on the sins, but on the faith. My sins and the faith of the Church.
Thank you, Church.
Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.
More on I-am-faithless-but-God-is-faithful.