Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful.
Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the
light of your faith and of your love.
– Saint Josemaria Escriva (The Way)
A common practice among Christians observing the disciplines of the penitential season of Lent every Spring is to deny ourselves some form of enjoyment or pleasure which is a normal part of our daily or weekly lives or to work on parts of our lives which are in need of improvement. This practice, followed throughout the forty days of the Lenten season, recalls to our minds, the forty days Christ spent in the desert. Throughout those forty days He fasted and prepared Himself for the great work that culminated in His passion and death for the sins of all on Good Friday.
Christ’s fasting in those forty days He spent in the desert sets an example for all Christians of a key way in which we as Christians can grow spiritually in this season. By denying ourselves the things of this Earth that can potentially usurp the place of God in our lives, we can grow closer to God as we remove obstacles, real or potential, which can block the connection between us and Christ. While the physical, material world is not in itself bad, made as it is by God, elements of it do often tend to gain a primacy in our lives that rightfully belongs to the spiritual. This reversing of the proper order can impede or even halt our spiritual progress. Christ’s example in the desert shows us one of the practices by which we can prevent that from happening and so grow closer to God.
Unfortunately, in our modern day, there is a tendency among many Christians to lose sight of the work and spiritual growth done over the forty days of Lent once Easter Sunday arrives. We slip back into old ways or restore those elements of the physical world to their former primacy of place. As the memory of Christ’s pain and suffering on Good Friday recede before the joy of the Easter season, we can lose sight of what He endured for the reparation of our sins. While Easter, as the greatest celebration of the church year, is certainly to be celebrated with feasting and revelry, we must not lose sight of the profound sacrifice that preceded it.
Lent is not meant to be merely a “spiritual road bump” to the yearly flow of people’s lives. Nor should Easter be looked upon as a liberation from the inconveniences Lent imposes upon us. Lent is meant to be only the beginning. The beginning of a new stage in our lives. A chance to take another step in our battle against those sins which plague us more than others. A chance to place the physical elements of this world in their proper order behind the spiritual elements.
Easter should be a time of joy because we have died to ourselves in order to become better people, better Christians. The weakness we have grappled with for all of Lent, has itself been weakened or mastered by us with God’s help and no longer holds the grip it once did upon our lives and our relationships with others. Our priorities have been realigned to reflect the proper order, with the physical giving place to the spiritual. Easter should not be a time for falling back into old bad habits or for allowing the physical world to re-usurp the spiritual. No, it should be a time where we re-dedicate ourselves by building with joy and gratitude upon the strength we have grown and the discipline which we have practiced throughout all the penitential season of Lent.
A priest once told his congregation: “If you gave up swearing for Lent, I don’t want to be around you on Easter.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that comment. The sufferings our Lord endured for us on Good Friday and the disciplines we practice through Lent will mean nothing to us personally if we sweep it all aside on Easter Sunday. It only truly helps us if we willingly choose to build our relationship with God through Lent and to repent and fight against the sins and faults we struggle with, the sins and faults He redeemed us from through His suffering and death on Good Friday.
© 2018 Grant Dahl & On This Terrestrial Ball. All rights reserved. This material may not be re-published, re-broadcast, re-written or re-distributed without permission from the author of this piece.