This year, I'm not ready, and the fact that it is late is a great mercy to me, for as we count down the final hours, still I am not ready. This year, I don't want Lent to come.
It is not that I haven't prepared, or that I haven't chosen my penance. Rather, it is that I am not ready to repent and I dread both repentance and the penance I owe, even knowing the depths of God's mercy and the fact that my penance can never match the depths of my sin and the ends to which I am drawn should I continue on my present course: Hell.
This year, I shudder at the sound of Lent, and I want to flee, but I cannot flee, for as Psalm 139 says, even if I fly to the ends of the earth He is there, to the depths of the sea and to the skies above...He corrals me like an untamed mustang.
I can do nothing but surrender.
For the last several weeks, I have been working my way through LOST and tonight, I finished it, right on schedule. For weeks, between LOST and four seasons of DEXTER I have been pondering human frailty and the reality of life without Faith.
For a couple weeks now, although I know I need to go to Confession, I have not gone. I desire to go, but because I am dealing with some questions and issues of unbelief, I have chosen, directly, not to go.
Because in spite of my deep queries, I believe in the Sacrament and the Authority of Christ.
And because I have not gone to Confession (and need to), I have not received Our Lord in Holy Communion for a few weeks now.
I am grateful for the graces of Spiritual Communion, but for now, I cannot approach and receive Jesus from the altar; I am not either objectively or implicitly disposed.
Yes, it IS hard to stand aside to let others leave the pew while they glance at me in askance, but I will not go forward even for a blessing, for, quite honestly, this is the wrong time for a Blessing stolen only to deflect my Pride in the face of the unasked questions of strangers regarding the state of my soul.
I've watched the entire series now, in only a few weeks, hoping to be done by the start of Lent. While I enjoyed it and didn't "get" some of the stuff imposed upon it or supposed from it, I will say this: there is one line that broke through my own heart, and it's something I take with me into Lent, and hopefully beyond.
In the final season of LOST, Jacob says that he chose them not for who they were, but for who they were not. (Not his exact words). He chose them because they were all flawed. They were alone, they were already lost, and they were already broken. He chose them in order to give them something for which to live...and for which to die.
I can't pray the prayer of Queen Esther without tears, for whenever I give voice to it I am desperate, even though it speaks to my constant condition: "Help me, Lord,l for I am all alone, and I have no one but Thee."
Esther cast herself upon the Mercy of God, who chose her not for her status, but for her lowliness. He heard her prayer even before she prayed it.
That struck me in the script for LOST: even though it wasn't a religious show by any means: the reality is that God does indeed choose us for our humility, but never for our Pride.
We may be chosen for the purpose of purification but in the end, we learn to choose Him through sacrificial love. Not love of ourselves, but love of others, for their good.
That is true charity.
This year, I enter into Lent unwillingly, but still with the intention to observe the penances and sacrifices. This year it will be harder than ever, for I also enter without Faith. I enter Lent, this year, with nothing to offer, and truly, neither am I open to receive.
My kiss, right now, to Jesus is one of betrayal. I know He chose me out of my solitude and brokenness and reached out to me because I am lost. Yet all I have to offer is a kiss of betrayal.
My only prayer, this Lent, is that by the Triduum I will come to Him with absolute trust in His Mercy.
For now, I have a long ways to go.
I am grateful for these 40 days to give me a chance to take back my kiss, to take back my stolen 30 pieces of silver and to instead, embrace the shadow of the Cross that falls over me.
Judas was lost because he appealed for mercy to the wrong authority. It wasn't because he wasn't repentant, but because he refused to speak to the One whom he had offended.
Tomorrow, I will receive Ashes, and with the watered-down admonition to "Repent, turn from sin and believe in the Gospel". This is all well and good, and I might have to actually, through my work, impose those words upon another, should Father (my boss) tell me to do so. I will be obedient to that should he conscript me into that service.
What I prefer and want to hear, though, and want to impose upon others is this, the harshest of introductions into Lent and that which helped me grow up:
If we lose sight of our final ends, that of eternity, Lent has no meaning whatsoever.
No one around me, priest or layperson has, in recent months reminded me of my final end. To do so is politically incorrect.
If Lent doesn't do it...then I have no reason to repent. If Ashes have no meaning for me, neither does the Cross.