Growing up Catholic, Lent was mostly a time of sacrifice and sinfulness for me. Promising to give up candy or soda or dessert and then not being able to keep the promise. So much pressure to be extra holy and sacrificial and so much guilt when I failed. I was sure that Jesus was very disappointed in me. After all, he suffered and died on the cross for my sins, so the least I could do was live for 40 days without Bazooka Bubblegum®.
As an adult I still struggle with Lent. I’ve given up stuff faithfully through the years: cursing, chocolate, cursing when I could find no chocolate. And I’ve done the “positive” spin on Lent, too. You know, doing good deeds and giving to charity. Being kinder, less judgmental, and not voting for Trump. But somehow it never feels like it makes a real difference. Not deep down. Not permanent.
When Holy Week comes I don’t have a spiritual awakening. When Lent is over I don’t feel like a changed man. Spiritual renewal – easy words to say; much harder to put into practice. Where to start? What to do?
Today’s Gospel helps:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
So maybe if I pray in my inner room (my heart) I will be changed. And maybe I have been changed a little each Lenten season and God is just waiting for me to figure that out. Perhaps that’s the little secret that God and I share – spiritual renewal doesn’t come in a flash of lighting or crash of thunder but in infinitesimal ways like tiny droplets of rain that erode the hardest granite after countless drops and unending persistence.
What I have to remember is that Lent is not a time for me to fix me. My only hope is that God will save me and that I will have the courage and humility to allow it.