How Come I Fear Lent?

I’ve got to admit it: there is something about the liturgical season of Lent that makes me uncomfortable. Why? As best as I can tell, lent brings up in my small soul a sense that I am somehow not good enough. Yes, my resolutions for doing something or avoiding another something are often enough broken at least by the middle of the Lent’s third week. What’s wrong with you, anyway!

I am left with the feeling that I failed again! I couldn’t sustain the simple direction that my pre-Lenten decisions led me. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Something nice for God so God will love you better.

Aye, there’s the rub! The premise here is that I’ve got to earn God’s love. What a crock! If God loves me at all, God loves me totally. I can’t buy more love from God. God IS love, I know in my mind, but somehow that doesn’t transfer to a time of repentance (like Lent) where my focus gets sidetracked. Somehow, I’m transported back to an earlier time of my life where “doing things for God/Christ” would prove my love for God and vice versa.

The problem is that I can know things, but not really to understand them, because understanding them calls out a different part of me than “knowing with my head.” I need to acknowledge that understanding with my heart and acting out of that understanding is the real goal in the spiritual life.

My early training clearly led me to miss this distinction. The more I think about it. God is incredibly patient with me as I am led to a deeper understanding and “feel” for what is most important. The bottom line regarding Lent is that the focus is NOT on me and my little dreams and schemes. Lent’s focus is squarely on God:

God’s love;
God’s care for me;
God’s unique call to me;
God’s desire that I discover my true self (finding and moving away from my predominately ego-driven self);
God’s intensely intimate invitation to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in service.

So, my Lenten question becomes, not exhibiting my goodness by giving up X or adding X to the upcoming six weeks of my life, but in focusing on God in one of all of the above-mentioned ways that God expresses that magnificent desire to be God for me and, obviously, for all and each one of us. Just imagine that!

Lent offers the time and space for recognizing more deeply the goodness of God reflected so intimately in the person of Jesus our Lord and redeemer. Nothing is more compelling than consistently noticing more profoundly the love of God in Jesus the Christ principally, and in the beauty and challenge of others who love us. Can I look at others and the entire creation of a loving and gracious God and not be overwhelmed by God’s universal presence to me (and of course) to each one and all of us.

So, Lent needs not bring me fear, but an intense joy at God’s love in Christ and the marvelously created universe. Lent (as all of our life in God) actualizes and makes real to us God/Christ’s personal invitation to hear the call to service and humbly respond as we are (gifted and loved by God).

Tom Shanahan, S.J.

 Praying Lent Home  |   Praying Lent Site Index    |    Creighton University Online Ministries Home Page