Third Sunday of Lent

I would suspect that most of us Catholics, if not all, have had at least one Lent that has come and gone with it hardly registering. Certainly, this has happened to me more than I’d like to admit. Indeed, when living my life at its worldliest, it was possible for an entire Lenten season to pass by before I could be bothered to settle on “what I was giving up”. It’s hardly a coincidence that such dire neglect of the smallest sacrifices was when I was the most self-absorbed.

But even when our hearts desire to live Lent well with proactive good works and sacrifices of pleasures large and small, it’s easy to miss the mark. We forget. We cheat. We give up. We falter because sacrifice is difficult. But why, oh why, is it so hard? Is it really that hard to eat out less? Or give up entertainment like television or video games? Or follow through on charitable pledges? Or take a cold shower? I’m in control, after all!

Aren’t I?

Maybe we’re not so tough as we think. Maybe the voice telling us that our life is ours to
command has been lying to us the whole time.

As my weakness of will is forced to be front and center, maybe I should start to ask what Lent is for in the first place. The immediate answers to this question seem to be obvious, for we learned them from the earliest days of our youth, when our parents and teachers urged us to give up sweets for Lent. We
learned that it prepares us to celebrate Easter, it unites our lives with Christ’s forty daysin the desert, it reminds us of why we need redemption in the first place, et cetera, et cetera.

But if that’s what it is, I should be worried. I’ve never lived a perfect Lent. Can I say that I’ve truly lived it well? And what are the actual standards to “live it well” anyway? If I don’t live it well, do I honestly deserve to live Easter? Maybe, it’s all pointless, I worry. Maybe, I’m hopeles

Uh oh. There’s another lie from a different angle.

I started by asking the question, “Why is sacrificing my desires so hard during Lent?” And so far, I’ve encountered two monumental lies which I know will do my soul immense harm if allowed to take root: that I’m in control and that when I fail to live up to my ideal, it places me in a hopeless position. No, I say, I don’t want lies. I want the truth, for it will show me who I am and where I am going.

By recognizing my need for truth, I can start to answer the question. I look into the mirror
of Lent to see myself truly. I am not the master of myself. In fact, I let myself be controlled by the stupidest and most mundane of impulses. But neither am I hopeless. The whole reason that I’m even trying to do these difficult things is because I want to discover the freedom of a life in Christ. And that, as small as it may seem, is enough for a momentous cause for hope, because that’s all Christ needs to work in my soul.

Lent shows me who I am. A fallen and broken creature, but one who looks to forward to
Christ’s sacrifice to save me and elevate me. And now that I can fully embrace myself as
the weak creation that I am, I can start the journey to cooperate with Christ in building
myself into the soul that I am called to be.

I think now I’m starting to get it. The flow from Lent into Easter is a little more apparent.
Seeing the truth of my weakness and embracing where it is leading me, shines the light of truth and hope on my heart. The scriptures talk a lot about buildings. Both Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22 compare God Himself to a fortress. Christ refers to Himself as a cornerstone. And in the context of Easter, of course, He talks about His death and resurrection through the metaphor of the tearing down and rebuilding the Temple in three days. When contemplating Christ’s sacrifice in this way, it is impossible to not reflect on His Body.

As Christ lives in each of us through the Sacraments, the sacrifices of Lent and the Easter birth of our own souls into eternity make the work of the season intensely personal. In a similar way, Christ as the Mystical Body extends everything about Lent and Easter to our very community. Together we must look
into the mirror of Lent and realize that we are weak and imperfect as a family. We must accept the light of Christ to see this truth and embrace the hope that with Him, we can grow into the Christian family of charity and love that He calls us to. We can reach that, however, only when we let go of our pride
and self-centeredness and begin to sacrifice for each other – that is, to live and give for the other members and for the whole.

Then we may be resurrected together, connected to each other in the one and single Body of Christ, the Temple of our worship.

Lord, please give me the grace to live this Lent better than I did yesterday. Give me the grace of humility, so I may embrace my weakness in the light of Your Truth and open my heart to Your Life in me. For with You inside of me, I am born again. As my brothers and sisters are also born into new life, may we together build your Church in our community and in the world. Amen.

Yours in Christ,