The Challenge of Lent
“God so loved the world
that he sent his only begotten Son—so that we might not perish,
but rather have eternal life.”
And what is more, that same son “did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it.”
This is the Gospel—this is the Good News! Yet some find it just too good to be true and some fall short of really believing that Jesus never fails—cannot fail. After all, if a plan fails in Iraq, it will not have been Jesus’ plan. Will it? Furthermore, condemnation is often our choice, but what does it accomplish? No wonder Jesus came, on the contrary, to redeem and to save.
I guess I can understand why atrocities both nearby and far away can instill an abiding pessimism but as Christians we are simply not allowed to abandon all hope, because ultimately our Savior came to save—our Redeemer came to redeem. This is his plan and it cannot fail. The believer will not perish, but will have eternal life.
No, as Jesus puts it to Nicodemus, a true disciple embraces truth and moves towards the light. What truth? Well, the truth that all are created in the image of the Creator, that all have a right to the resources of this planet in order to live and have a place they call “home,” and the right to find the promised path that leads back to the Father and to his heaven. What light? Of course, that would be the Light of Christ that dispels all darkness.
How horrible and lamentable it is then, when human beings choose to live in darkness rather than the light.
“And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.”
This is a definition for sin: to deliberately and with full knowledge choose to separate oneself from the light, to deliberately choose a path to darkness. What else is a lie? What else is abuse in all its forms? What else is infidelity? –but darkness.
And so the challenge of Lent is to be deliberate about embracing the truth—the truth about me. Whatever part of my life is “light” can be readily embraced. But what of my dark side? What is there about me that I do not want “exposed to the light?”
What have been called “venial sins” are those thoughts and actions that dabble in darkness, and for a time, move me away from the light. Bad enough. But those “mortal sins,” on the other hand, would be those decisions to conduct myself in ways that reverse my path to God altogether; they are choices of various forms of pride, greed, and revenge that fly in the face of God himself. Thank God, most of us “do not go there.”
Our Lenten journey, then, is a movement of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that re-assures our path to truth and light. It is forty days of so realigning our thoughts, words and actions that we feel and know ourselves to be, in fact, part of Jesus’ own redeeming and saving the world, because our lives are literally IN Christ. This is the way the Church counsels us to worthily celebrate the triumph and gift of his Resurrection.
So “hang in”!