With the arrival of the Lenten season, it might be time to consider what about ourselves we can renew, remodel, or somehow improve upon in our preparation for Easter. The first requirement for such a task is honesty. Just as Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:31-46 that the Son of Man will separate the sheep from the goats—those who follow the way of love versus those who do not—we need to take an honest look at what in our lives needs to be discarded.
Rationalization and bouts of laziness can cause us to be content with easy selfish responses to the gospel challenge to love God and one another. “Let someone else, with more time and resources, take care of the needy.” “Why should I forgive him; he will just do it again?” “He should get a job and not be so dependent.” “I’m too sleepy tonight to say any prayers; I will say extra ones tomorrow.” Really?
Spring is a good time for renovations. A reasonable amount of detachment from worldly cares can help us focus on our quest of a holier spiritual life. We can carefully select which doors that lead to distractions we can close, or at least shut partially. It is true that we live in a material world, with responsibilities and expectations. It is also true that the Lord guides us. The psalm verses in today’s liturgy tell us,
(T)he precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure,
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether. (Psalm 19:8-9)
Sometimes, when we make renovations, we use new and different materials. How about that Bible study in one of the parishes in town? How about that extra daily mass during the week? How about that consciousness examen in Ignatian Spirituality you might want to try? How about fervently praying a few more Acts of Contrition? How about composing a personal act of contrition specific to your own purpose of amendment?
Fortunately, we are not being tempted for 40 days in a desert as Jesus was. However, the devil is very skillful at hitting us in vulnerable areas of our lives. We have to be alert as we are renovating; we watch for weakness and flimsy excuses. We are commanded to love our neighbor but also to love ourselves, and to be forgiving of each other. Shortcuts can be wrong ways and even dead ends.
While Lent is a time of preparation for the glorious celebration of Easter, we do not have to wait to be joyful. We are working on positive improvement. We know God is in the renovation business. He offers the tools to help us.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord,
and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my
youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! (Psalm 25:6-7)
Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.