Well, friends, we’ve passed the halfway mark of the Lenten season, the most “intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice” (CCC 1438).
How’s it going for you?
If you’ve found yourself knocked down by the wall of spiritual fatigue and zeal-less-ness, then I’ll raise my penitential plain glass of water to you in solidarity.
At some point, if we are truly striving to live this liturgical season, Lent will start to SUCK. Perhaps we haven’t yet witnessed the spiritual fruit we hoped would be borne from our efforts. Maybe we don’t feel like we are making the sacrifice that Jesus desires of us. It could be that Satan is pulling his typical you-can’t-do-this-so-turn-stones-into-bread thrice times desert temptation crap. Perhaps, if we’re like most human beings, our initial fervor has been dampened by the difficulty of what we have chosen to give up and pick up. Possibly, instead of relying upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are relying upon our own hearts that tend to be three sizes too small. Maybe...just maybe.
Whatever the cause, our Lenten journey is bound to come to a climax every year when we are just done. We want to check out. We slowly let ourselves forget about the penances we concluded to perform and we let ourselves slip into the erroneously pleasant fog of unawareness and laziness.
But let’s not allow that to happen this time around. We have a choice in the matter, after all, so let’s choose the one that will “reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way” (CCC 1439).
Lent is supposed to be difficult, and to increase in difficulty the closer we get to the Easter Triduum. Think about it. If the purpose of Lent is to draw us deeper into the mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, then we are going to have to take Him seriously on this whole “pick up your cross and follow me” deal (cf Mt 16:24). If we want relationship with Jesus, then we have to seek to know Him more fully each day, even in that which is burdensome (like the Cross). If we desire to be holy, to be whole, then we must be willing to rid ourselves of all that keeps us from our true fulfillment: God Himself. “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes” (CCC 2015).
So if you find yourself so over Lent right now and in need of a good spiritual kick in the butt in order to persevere to Easter, you’re not the only one, and you've probably reached the pinnacle moment of your Lenten sacrifices where the rubber meets the road and you get to choose to either run away or hold fast.
There are three simple ways to help us make the right conclusion and continue to follow in the footsteps of Jesus with passion:
- Refocus. Remember why we sacrifice and reach higher during Lent in the first place: for love of He who is Love. If we want to really burn with love for Jesus, then we must realize “this tireless fervor can only come from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love” (CCC 2742). Our spiritual progress during the season of Lent can only be made in Love, by Love, and for Love.
- Don’t Go it Alone. It’s not about toughing it out for the sake of bragging rights or even the self-satisfaction of being “victorious” in our Lenten resolutions. Our sacrifices and extra efforts toward charity are intended to lead us to understand that none of it is possible without Divine assistance. Our Lenten goals should help us realize that we cannot do it on our own, nor are we meant to. So when Lent starts to suck, let us lean in closer to the Father for support and let Him carry us. Then, allow that childlike dependence to overflow into every area of our lives until we become utterly helpless without the strength of the Lord.
- Anchor to the Eucharist. This is our life source, our solace, and our only hope. “Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ…” (CCC 1436). So when we find the renunciation and conversion of Lent too laborious, let us place ourselves in the Eucharistic presence of Our Lord more often. Adoration and frequent reception of Communion will encourage us along our Lenten journey as we come face to face, as we receive into our hearts, the One with Whom we walk.
So, we march onward through this season of Lent, with all its trials and monotony, in all our littleness and weakness, in order to die with Christ so that we might rise with Him.
Photo: Giles Clark
Olivia lives in Kentucky, where sweet tea and bourbon flow like milk and honey. She is wife to a nurse-man and mother to an incubating son. She spends her time teaching 7th graders about Christ and His Church, exploring the crunchy side of life, organizing anything she can get her hands on, and dancing in the moonlight. You can come along for the adventure at www.totheheights.com.