A friend used to tell a story of how he and his best friend were sitting in a train station in Germany talking explicitly about the nature of their struggles and temptations, taking for granted that no one would bother to listen, let alone translate their English. A few moments later, an English speaking man leaned over from two seats away and indicated that he recognized my friend. My friend says that at that moment he didn’t want to be who he was.
Lent seems to be a time when scripture and the Church call us to look closely at ourselves, even to seek out our darkness and our shortcomings. Today’s readings bring me face to face with the darkness of my temptations. Like my friend, confronting the exact nature of my temptations makes me want to deny a part of myself- the part that is sinful and always on the verge of falling. I’m painfully aware that others would be horrified by my struggles and temptations. But, my faith must be grounded, not in others’ opinions and judgements, but in the knowledge that God and his love are greater than whatever sin any of us commit.
As painful as facing the reality of my temptations is, facing them makes sense to me in light of Christ. I would rather live on the verge of falling and have my security be in the all sufficient grace of God than to live in some kind of dangerous illusion that I am insulated from temptation, or that others’ opinions of me are more important than leaning on God’s grace.
I don’t have many first hand experiences of hitchhiking, but it is the image that my mind conjures up as I reflect on these readings. It is the experience of standing on the side of the road with your thumb out and hundreds of cars go by. Then, one car stops and suddenly you forget that you’ve been standing there for an hour. One act of mercy on the part of one person erases the fact that hundreds drove by and were completely apathetic. One act of grace is a very profound thing. The world may be very cruel in many ways, but that one act of grace on the part of Christ changes everything.
So, Lent is a time to seek out our darkness, but not in order to condemn ourselves, but in order to seek the light of Christ and “receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness…” As Thomas Merton said, “Lent is then not a season of punishment so much as one of healing.” And suddenly we realize, in that light, that we are not at all on the verge of falling, but on the verge of the miracle of God’s grace.
Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook