A Difficult Lent

In Christianity on April 19, 2011 at 10:29 pm

How has your Lent been this year? Have your prayer, fasting, and almsgiving been consistent? Have you made progress in self-mastery and sensed the movements of the Holy Spirit in your life? Have you felt close to the Lord?

If you answered “yes,” your Lent has been better than mine. Why? Interior inattention? I pray that has not been true of me. External distraction? Perhaps. An increasing awareness of my sin without equivalent progress overcoming it? Certainly that is true. This has been a difficult Lent—following hard on the heels of a disappointing Advent (not in the sense of Christ’s coming, but rather, disappointing because of my failure to make abundant room for Him in the “inn” of my schedule).

What, then, are you and I to do, if you’ve had a difficult season of reflection and repentance leading up to Easter? This is Holy Week. Easter is upon us. In our most discouraged moments, we may even be tempted, with the people chronicled in Jeremiah 8:20, to despair, “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved,”¹ not from our sin; not from ourselves.

Benedict XVI’s recently published, Jesus of Nazareth—Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, has been a huge help in this respect. He points out that “if man is to enter God’s presence, to have fellowship with God, he must be ‘clean.’ Yet the more he moves into the light, the more he sense how defiled he is.”² He further stresses that we are never to give up; never stop believing in forgiveness, as Judas did; never lose certainty that the Light of Christ will overcome darkness.³ Unlike Judas, or the people of Jerusalem described by Jeremiah, when we fall we must get up and return to the Lord.

In John 8:12, forgiving and freeing the woman caught in adultery, and John 9:5, healing the man born blind, light overcomes the darkness! Never doubt Jesus Christ can, and will, and is doing the same thing for you. “Light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth,” Ephesians 5:9 reassures us. We are even told we are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

How can this be? This is because, through the overwhelming goodness and power of God in Jesus Christ, we who were once darkness, now are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). In the words of Benedict, “Faith takes flesh” in us. The Church becomes the Body of Christ. And in this we have the assurance, “No one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the Church, because we are members of His body” (Ephesians 5:29-30).

Take heart, brother and sister in the Lord. If this has been a difficult Lent, persevere. The light of Christ shines in the darkness—the darkness of this world; the darkness of our failures—yet the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5), and it shall not! That is Christianity Richly.

¹ Most translations say “saved,” but the NAB uses the word “safe”

² Page 57

³ Pages 69, 92

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