I hope that your observance of Lent so far has been blessed and rewarding for you. And, I hope that as we pray for those to be received into our faith community at the Easter vigil, we also can pray for one another. We all want to grow in knowledge, love and service of the Lord. This is a privileged time — one during which we are invited to open our hearts to the grace of God and ask for the renewal of our lives.
That invitation to new life in Christ carries with itself the dual challenge to reform our own lives and to live in right relationship with our neighbors. Both of those challenges are formidable ones. We know how difficult it can be to develop new habits that would be good for us, or to drop old habits that do us harm. And, of course, we are all familiar with the difficulty of repairing damaged relationships and healing the wounds caused by conflict.
But, confident in the promises of Christ, we all try in this holy season to turn our hearts back to God. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are three classic expressions of this Lenten spirit. If we take up such practices in a spirit of faith, we find that they almost always put us in touch with the basic patterns of our lives. They challenge the choices we make in the stewardship of all the goods God places at our disposal — our time, talent and treasure. (Do we live our lives as an expression of thanksgiving to God?). And, they impel us to face the discord — even the injustice — that may mar our relationship to others (Do we really take seriously the injunction to love our neighbor as ourselves?)
Tough as these challenges may be, most of us welcome them at the deepest level of our beings. In the last analysis, we all want the good for ourselves and for others — life, peace, freedom, friendship, purpose and fulfillment. But, we also know the enemies of keeping a clear vision of the good and the courage to pursue it. We call them selfishness, distortion and disconnection from the sources which keep the vision clear and the heart strong to pursue it — prayer, friends to encourage us, a concern for others which helps expand our horizons.
The bright side of the picture is in the Lord’s patience and compassion. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to get all things done all at once. All we need to do is to reaffirm our desire for the good and to ask the Lord for the grace to love as simply and honestly as we can in all circumstances of our lives.
Yes, we will fail and fail often (doesn’t it say somewhere: seventy times seven times each day?). But, for each of these dyings there is a new rising promised whenever we turn to the Lord with humble heart and ask forgiveness for our failure to seek and do the good.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving in their countless manifestations are important exercises. They are expressions of an inner thirst and disposition for the integrity of our own hearts and for the integrity of our relationships with others. They strengthen and affirm those inner dispositions. We just need to remember that they cannot substitute for those inner dispositions.
I encourage you to be confident in the Lord’s faithful love for you. Let it touch your heart and lead you this Lent to a deeper appreciation of the Easter life with which you have been blessed. It’s never too late to start. We never have too little to give to the Lord.
Peace to all.