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Monday, April 17, 2006

Looking back to Lent and forward to Divine Mercy

I'm going to be completely candid with you. I made lenten promises just like everyone else...and as usual, I failed miserably. I'll admit that I did not fail as miserably as I did in past lenten seasons, but failure is failure.

Or is it?

I spent a lot of time thinking this last 40 days previous to the Easter Triduum, and I recognized a change in my behavior, overall. In comparing with the past, some years I did not give much up at all, and if I did, I did not take it very seriously. Sometimes in past years, once I had fallen, I continued with my vice, having decided that it was worthless to go on.

I still shake my head at my lack of fortitude at the time.

This year was different. Yes, I failed miserably and my willpower broke down, sometimes without a battle. I am weak. But this year, something changed; when I fell, I picked myself back up and I went on with my chosen cross. I resolved to do better, and if I had fallen, I also gave up some alternative craving, to be sure that at least I was making some kind of sacrifice that day.

I spent some time reflecting on my weak spirit when it came to me that this is what Lent is all about; a spiritual desert, a time to recognize that we are called to be holy, and in order to do so we need to cut ties to earthly pleasures. Legitimate pleasures which in and of themselves are not inherently wrong. Maybe some people gave up pleasures which are sinful for them, and this likely has even greater value in God's eyes as the task is that much more difficult. Or do we all do that? For example, what about chocolate? Do we overdo it on sweets to the point that it may be sinful? And if this is the case, isn't it harder to give up and a larger cross to carry than, say, giving up chocolate or sweets if we tend to enjoy them only on occasion anyway? For myself, I gave up a very difficult pleasure and I did so with the intention of following through, but I didn't do so well.

While amidst this spiritual desert, I came to understand how deeply I need the mercy of Jesus. I came to understand that I am a slave to my passions. I have not broken my bond with this passion of mine, however, through the grace of God, I think that the bond has been weakened. Isn't that a success?

I've realized that my "failure" to uphold my promises was not a failure at all, but rather, an enlightening example of concupiscense. If I cannot give up even a legitimate pleasure, how much more difficult is it to give up the sins I committ without even thinking about them each and every day?

This lenten season was a true lesson to me in how much I am in need of a Savior, how much I need to rely on the Divine Mercy of Jesus because I do not have the power within me to break with my passions.

Dearest Jesus, I am a sinner, a miserable sinner, and I cannot even do so much as pray without your Divine Grace. Have mercy on me, Jesus.

For the next year, I now have a lesson in humility; remembering that even if I make strides in my spiritual life, I am still nothing but a sinner in need of God's grace. But Jesus went to the cross knowing that I would sin, he suffered because I cannot break with my sins so he took it upon himself to do it for me.

I still have things to work on and I can now look back and understand that even though on the surface it seems that I failed, overall, Lent was a success because had I not fallen, I would not have obtained a greater understanding of Jesus' mercy.

I am of course praying the Divine Mercy Novena which began on Good Friday, and this year it means even more to me. I will finish the Novena and approach the Feast and the devotion on Divine Mercy Sunday with great awe and gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made for us all and the great love he demonstrated when he gave everything by pouring his lifeblood out upon the world.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, in celebrating this beautiful, renewing season of Easter, don't go back to your old habits, but let those broken bonds carry you forward so that you can grow even further in holiness. While we are now in a time of celebration, it is not a time of excess but rather a season to rejoice in newfound freedoms and revel in God's great mercy. How can we properly observe this by backsliding? Simple. We can't.

We all need Jesus' mercy. We all need to approach the fount of mercy as described by St. Faustina (as revealed to her by Jesus Christ); we need to go to Confession, pray the chaplet for ourselves and others and to trust that Jesus will lead us all home.

Jesus, we trust in thee.


The Confessionator said...

I did the same thing... made lots of promises, broke some of them, kept some of them. I guess one of the things I learned this Lent is that spiritual growth doesn't happen overnight. It is a process, and if you go into Easter a stronger Catholic than you were before, then Lent served its purpose.

Anonymous said...

Ditto, Adoro and Confessionator. But, Adoro, I'm with you when you say that at least this Lent you were aware of your shortcomings. In years past, I could not say that I really united myself with the suffering Jesus at all.