Sometimes we can get caught in the trap of thinking that God only loves us when we do the right thing. We can assume wrongly that our sinfulness turns Him away from us until we get ourselves back on the “right” track. That would be a lie evil wants you to believe and there are many times in our life that we actually believe it. We cannot imagine a Being so concerned with our lives, who loves us despite the fact that He knows every single flaw, foolish behavior, and unkind word we have every thought or spoken. We cannot imagine that we are even worth loving when we have chosen to do unspeakable things and loathe our very selves. We live in such a society of fluctuating whims. This is good, that is not- until next week when it changes.
What is sinful is now proclaimed and celebrated. In fact, we are now bullied, canceled or publicly humiliated if we dare speak against the current line of thinking. So, it is really hard to imagine that one could be accepted, not alone loved, for simply being our messy sinful screwed up self.
Hopefully, we have heard the message of God’s love for us, as He has been saying it since we were dust. We hear lots of things. Believing them and taking them to heart is another thing we are not so good at. So, the Church gives us lots of little seasons in the Liturgical year to remind us and help us realign our priorities. Those who have put their faith on the back burner or in a “continual holding pattern” are not as immersed in all the ways Mother Church wants to reach out to her wayward children. When we self-distance ourselves from God, or from the Church He established, we can easily fall for anything that feels like a worthier use of our time.
We can give to created things the honor and attention that is only due to the Creator.
Lent is one such reminder of the importance of turning away from sin and reorienting our life and purpose to the One who gave us life. At St Andrew’s we will embark once again on the Journey Toward Holiness. This time our journey will lead us through Lent, and to the Cross with Christ. You might think, “Well that doesn’t sound like fun.” You are correct. “Fun” is not the emphasis of Lent. Words like sacrifice, self-discipline, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are the focus of this short period in the entire year. Forty days out of 365 days, we are asked to refocus on God through time-honored Lenten practices. In the infamous words of my husband trying to explain to his new bride about fractions, “if I had a pie…” Lent would be about a slice. I won’t go into the words of his new bride about what he could do with his pie.
We can handle a slice, right? Putting it all in perspective helps us when we want to whine and feel sorry for ourselves.
If you have not put much thought or are trying to avoid thinking about Lent, now is the time to change things. Fr Mark Toups and others far wiser than myself, suggest that we begin to “discern” what God wants us to do for Lent. “Oh, I’m not gonna ask God what He wants me to do, He might ask me to do something like walk barefoot on broken glass.” Yowzers, that doesn’t sound like a God of Love?
Fr Toups suggests that God wants to meet us where we are at and our Lenten penance should reflect that. He makes the wonderful proposal to spend time asking God through prayerful reading some suggested Scripture passages. He says that, “Lent is fruitful when it is connected to the realities of our life.” This Lent let’s try and make everything we do or don’t do, about deepening our relationship with God. Below are some Scriptures Fr Toups suggests to pray through over and over, as you ask God what His Will is for you this Lent.
So where are you right now? Select the passage to pray that most reflects this.
- Do you feel like you are a good Catholic, faithful, regular Mass attendee, you frequent Confession and follow the Commandments, but you want to go deeper and closer to God? Consider spending time in the story of the Rich Young Man (Matt 19:16-30)
- Maybe you have experienced God’s grace and healing, just like the Man Born Blind (Jn 9), and you want to draw deeper into the One who healed you. Your search through Lent will lead you to Him.
- Maybe you have done some things in your life, and you are still doing them. They have a hold on you. Perhaps, you feel trapped in them or others have labeled you by your sins. Read and reflect on the Samaritan Woman at the Well, (Jn 4:4-34). Her sin held her back from meeting and knowing Jesus. She needed Christ to heal and forgive her.
- Maybe right now you feel like you are in the midst of the wildest storm you have ever experienced. This storm can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. It can be in a relationship at home or at work or in your family. But you feel like Jesus is asleep and not doing anything about it. The Disciples in the boat during the storm felt that way as Jesus slept. (Mk 4:35-41) What is God saying to you in this storm?
This time that we use to prepare before Lent to discern where God is calling us, is not wasted time. Reading and praying with the Scriptures is God talking to us today in our lives. One of our “Mums” sent this little video to me which is from Beth Davis of Blessed is She Ministries. It is a beautiful testimony of the power of asking God about her Lenten Penance. I highly recommend that you make the time to watch this.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 2725 states what is necessary and at stake in taking the time to pray always but most especially in anticipation of Lent.
We pray as we live, because we live as we prayCCC 2725
“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.