Prayer, repentance, conversion and love should be top priorities in our lives, but during Lent we are to emphasize these even more. We are to strive more resolutely to experience deeper and deeper conversions, uniting ourselves to Christ more intimately. We should be more intent to live with a prayerful, repentant heart filled with love for God. Every moment should be lived with an intense realization that this life is temporary and that at our moment of death we will face Christ at our personal judgment. Christ tells us that love is the greatest commandment God gives us – love of God and love of others. And it is on this that we will be judged. It is these realities that should be at the heart of our Lenten journey as to prepare our whole being – body, mind, heart and soul – to walk with Christ as we commemorate His last days on earth during Holy week, to encounter Christ regularly in the Eucharist and to face Christ at the moment of our passing from this earthly life.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “It is never true to say that we have no time to meditate; the less one thinks of God, the less time there will always be for God. The time we have for anything depends of how much we value it. Thinking determines the uses of time; time does not rule over thinking. The problem of spirituality is never, then, a question of time; it is a problem of thought. For it does not require much time to make us saints; it requires only much love.”
Following Archbishop Sheen’s comment, during this Lent we need to deeply examine our lives. The time we give to anything in our lives indicates the value we place on it. How much do we value God compared to our jobs, families, entertainment, and other forms of pleasure? Is God truly the center of our lives? Are we giving God our time proportionate to how much we value Him (or should value Him)?
Repentance and Conversion
St. Hippolytus wrote, “Christ, like a skillful physician, understands the weakness of men. He loves to teach the ignorant and the erring he turns again to his own true way. He is easily found by those who live by faith and to those of pure eye and holy heart, who desire to knock at the door, he opens immediately.”
If we have skin cancer, we do not simply ignore it and let it fester because if we do, it will spread and cause cancer throughout our body. Sin is like this cancer. It is harmful! Some sins destroy our relationship with God and we fall away from grace (mortal sins). Some sins are “lesser” sins in that that damage our relationship with God but it is not destroyed (venial sins). Even though venial sins are considered “lesser sins”, they are still harmful to our soul and to our relationship with God! All sin is opposed to love of God, though to varying degrees. And like cancer, if we remain in sin, it too will spread. Sin will build upon sin. We will find it harder and harder to resist temptations. Sin will even begin to blind us – we can fall into a state of denial losing sight of what is truly good and evil. We MUST turn to our one true physician – Christ- and repent of our sins! This opens us up to receive His grace which is the strength and power we need in this life. And as we recognize our sins, repent and turn back to God, this is conversion. The more we turn our whole being to God, the deeper we are experiencing conversions of our whole being to God.
This Lent, we need to regularly examine our lives. In what ways we are making choices contrary to God’s will for our lives? Are we recognizing our sins promptly and repenting? Do we understand the gravity of sin and the serious consequences it has in our lives? Are we opening our hearts to God’s grace and allowing that to transform us?
If we are allowing God’s grace to work in our lives, we will see its fruits. Are our lives spiritually fruitful? Are we living every day as good and faithful servants of Christ? Are we being living witnesses for Christ to the world? Are we reflecting Christ’s love to all those we encounter in our lives?
St. Augustine wrote that love is the law of gravitation. Whatever it is we love the most will pull us in that direction. A boy in school who loves sports more than learning will have a difficult time studying because all he can think about is getting out onto the field. Businessmen who love success, money, admiration and achievement more than ethical values, will be led by the earthly pleasures when making difficult decisions. If we love the things of this world more than we love God and the heavenly things He offers, we will too often neglect prayer, worship, meditation, reading the Bible and other spiritual endeavors.
Things of this world are not evil in themselves but they can cause us to be distracted or too attached to them such that God gets pushed to the periphery or completely ignored. As St. Augustine would say, things of this world can weigh us down to the point that our minds are not lifted up to heaven.
Where is our love pulling us? Are we being led to God and to heavenly things? Or are we being drawn to earthly things? Are our hearts and minds so distracted by this earthly world that we neglect God? Are we more concerned about our physical body and its appearance and health than we are about the health of our soul? Are we so dedicated to earthly successes, achievements and relationships that we fail to give much or any of our time to God? Are we living with the reality that there are eternal consequences of our lives?
Lent is a time for reflection and spiritual renewal, and a time to examine one’s relationships with God and with others. In our Lenten journey, let us focus more deeply on prayer, fasting, conversion, repentance and especially on love in order to unite ourselves more deeply to God in this life so that we can hopefully be with Him eternally in the next.