As a community of believers we begin our preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery – His suffering, death, and Resurrection at Easter. Since Christ spent 40 days in the desert praying and fasting to prepare for His mission, we too spend 40 days praying and fasting to prepare for receiving the graces He won for us on the Cross. Although Christ offers Redemption freely to all persons, we cannot be redeemed unless we repent of our sins and allow Christ to transform us in His grace. This means change – which is why we try to give up something during Lent and/or add prayer or works of mercy to our daily routine during this time.
The Catechism expresses this dual process by saying:
|“God created us without us; but He did not will to save us without us. To receive His mercy we must admit our faults. ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’” CCC 1847 1 John 8-9|
Catholics don’t reflect on our sins for six weeks because we have a morbid side needing to cultivate “Catholic guilt”. We meditate on our sins because unless we take the time to stop and look or pray to the Holy Spirit about them, life passes by rapidly leaving us older but unchanged and unprepared for eternal life. We receive ashes on our foreheads to remember that this life is short and the key to heaven is to repent and believe in the Gospel.
In the book The Name of God Is Mercy Pope Francis is asked “Why in your opinion, is humanity so in need of mercy?” His response articulates the reasoning underlying Lent as well:
|“Because humanity is wounded, deeply wounded. Either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them…Pius XII, more than half a century ago, said that the tragedy of our age was that it had lost its sense of sin, the awareness of sin.”|
Lent is like an annual visit to the doctor. It’s important to evaluate your health once a year and catch abnormalities or diseases early. We don’t take medication unless we know we are sick and the same applies to the spiritual life. If we don’t think we are sick with sin, we don’t see a need for a Redeemer. When we realize our woundedness and repent, it’s then that we can be healed by our Lord.
- Spend time in prayer today asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what sin He would like to help you battle this Lent or what virtue He wants to build in you.
- Choose something to give up or do that will help you grow in your relationship with Christ and detach you from things that keep you from Christ.