How's your Lent going? I dread this question, although my spiritual director had not asked this to me, as of today... I must confess this Lent has been difficult. Not that I've ever experienced an "easy" Lent. It's only slightly more than a week; and I'm already thinking of all the sharp and sarcastic things I could say after Lent, the things I could do after Lent, all the things I could allow myself to imagine after Lent. Unbelievable!
And then the moment of epiphany came when I read in one of Adoro's posts (in which she wrote about her discernment) that she hasn't been able to "give up sins" for Lent as she had planned. Duh! My first reaction was, how can we give up sinning for Lent when our feet are made of clay? And what's with this "attachment" to sins? I first encountered "attachment to sins" while reading about indulgences and conditions to gain the indulgences. Duh! Can anyone be attached to sins? How silly...
What an abrupt awakening I had when I realize that I too am attached to my sins. Attached to all those things that I told myself not to do during Lent. To these judgments, to these remarks that 'put people in their place', to these private thoughts that my way is the only correct one... The sharp retort that I swallowed back had no place neither during Lent nor after. Rich!
Embarrassment aside, thinking more deeply beyond a little suffering that we Catholics customarily allow ourselves during Lent, it makes no sense at all to be believing the way I had been acting. It makes no sense to tell myself to wait until Lent is over..., because Lent is not a period of self-imposed suffering that the Church made us go through. We have come to the desert voluntarily. Well, to a certain degree. When I consider how we have come freely to enter the Catholic Church, I remind myself how I *did* sign up for all these.
On the other extreme, before you examine how many donuts you did not pass, or how many times you said the rosary today, if you think your Lent has been going badly, let's take a look at the Mass reading from Monday 3rd Week of Lent, on the cure of Namaan, the Syrian (2 Kings 5:1-15ab):
Namaan, a commander in the Syrian army of the King of Aram, was struck with leprosy. His Jewish maid-servant suggested that he goes to Elisha the prophet, to ask for cure. Thus, with a letter from the king, and endowed with treasures in gold & silver, he went to Israel seeking for a cure. Elisha told him to bathe in the Jordan seven times, and this was met by a ludicrous response. Fortunately, he had wise servants who made him see the value of trying out this suggestion. He bathed, was cured and came back not only cured but enriched with the faith in the One God.
His story is amazing for its lesson in faith and humility: whenever we are tempted to think that God is asking us to do 'great acts' (of penance) to 'be cured' during Lent, only to be discouraged when we inevitably fall. For our lives, for whatever it is worth, are composed of 'little moments' of struggle fortified with grace. There is no shame in falling and rectifying all over again, since we know that Jesus had already won the battle.