You know, during Lent we are asked to simplify our lives, refocus on what matters most, repent and bring more charity into the world. Lent also reminds us, as do the readings today, that our relationship with God has been a journey with many twists, turns and probably our share of setbacks. But the good news is that Lent ends with Easter which is the culmination of our faith and repair of humankind’s relationship with God. That which was damaged in the Garden of Eden is repaired through the cross.
That all sounds great, but what practically are we to do to make Lent meaningful? We may give up sweets each year and try to do good, but it feels as though we are doing the same thing every Lent. What’s different this year? I am glad you asked! We are just in the first weekend of Lent so let’s talk about taking an important first step that I would summarize with the following:
We cannot prepare without first making sure we repair.
What do we need to repair in our lives to set things straight, to get back on track? Is something off-track in our relationships with people in our lives and thus with God? A real review of how we live our lives is called for, and an honest and maybe difficult assessment is needed.
I think God is asking us to look deeper into our lives to understand where we are in relationship to what is truly important. Maybe a few questions can help us assess. What do we truly crave in our lives? Do we crave attention, power and respect? Is it more about me and my pride and less about God in my life? What about the temptation of stuff, money and what others have? Envy and jealousy rear its ugly head. Left unchecked, these temptations can become a source of worship in our lives; we pursue them and forget about where God is in all this.
So, during Lent, what do we do prepare for Easter? By taking stock. Taking stock of what we think is important in our lives and making changes to those priorities when they are out of whack. Taking stock of what we worship and why. Taking stock of how we, or if we, bring love into the world. With that done, we need to not just vow to do better, Lent asks us to repair our wrongs.
- Make amends to those we’ve estranged
- Admit our failure to love
- Face our grudges and hatred
- And ask for forgiveness
I’d like to bring up the Sacrament of Reconciliation and all the reasons (excuses) of why we don’t come to Confession.
We all have excuses, I mean reasons, about why we don’t make the time to hit confession during Lent. Let’s see if any of these sounds familiar…
“My sins are not really that bad, it’s no big deal.”
“It’s embarrassing to list off my personal faults and times I have messed up to a priest. The next time I see that priest, they will remember what I said.”
“I don’t have time.”
“I confess my sins to God directly, I don’t need to go to Confession.”
When we look frankly at our favorite reason, they look pretty weak don’t they? Especially during Lent when we know we are supposed to be repenting!! The argument for Confession is simple, powerful and straightforward.
First, Reconciliation (Confession) is a Sacrament. What do we receive each and every time we partake in one of the Sacraments of the Church? God’s Grace! Every time we go! And we all know we need His Grace in our lives! There are only seven Sacraments available to us, and some of them, like Baptism and Confirmation… we can only do once so why not receive His Grace via Sacraments that we can choose to receive any time!
Second, Reconciliation heals us. When we carry sin within us, it is a weight and it can gnaw at us the longer we keep it. Confessing to our Father through the Priest heals that wound and releases that weight we have carried. I guarantee you that after Confession, you will feel relief and life.
Third, Reconciliation repairs and strengthens our relationship with Jesus and puts us on His path towards salvation. That’s what Jesus wants and why He is so happy that we have come to this Sacrament because we are telling Him we want to be in heaven with Him forever!
And fourth, going to Confession strengthens us to avoid sin in the future. I know I need that strength to resist sin. How about you?
When I read about the saints or think about a really holy person I know, they are always going to confession. Why the heck are they going to Confession? They are the holiest person I know! And I say, exactly. Are they holy people who choose to go to Confession, or do they go to Confession to become Holy?
Going back to the “reasons” why we don’t go to Confession…that the priest will remember my confession and that’s embarrassing. So, a true story here: during my Diaconate formation, I was talking to a priest once and he told me that he estimates he had heard over 10,000 confessions in his time as a priest. 10,000! He is not going to remember my confession out of the 10,000! But more importantly, we need to remember that the priest is the instrument through which we talk to God about our sins, that is who we are really talking to. And you may be surprised, in Confession, God talks to us through the priest.
So, let’s make a vow to get to Reconciliation at least once during Lent. That is how we repair and that is how we prepare.