The season of Lent is upon us, and yet it seems like just weeks ago that I packed away our Christmas decorations! Each year I move through the anticipation of Advent, to the joys of Christmas, into the intense preparation of Lent before I have even caught my breath. It sneaks up on me yet again!
Season of Renewal
Though it finds me unprepared, that's the beauty of it. That's the point. Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom, sees my human frailties and my lack of perspective, and sets aside forty days during which I can prepare my heart and mind to enter into His Passion - and re-enter my own continuous conversion.
This year, let's start the Lenten season together, with a meditation to help us live a deliberate Lent and a commitment to renew our faith in all its intensity.
The Beam in My Eye
"Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,' while the wooden beam is in your own eye? You hypocrites, remove the wooden beam from your own eye first, then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye." - Matthew 7: 3-5
Let's approach the Lord together in humility, asking the help of the Holy Spirit in identifying our own "beams," the things that hold us back from seeing clearly, and becoming what God intended. Then we can choose Lenten practices specific to our own spiritual needs. This season is an extra boost - or maybe a restart - in the advancement of our lifelong conversions.
Lord, you see me and you know me, far better than I know myself, and more honestly than I want to see myself sometimes. There is so little I have to offer you, but I give you my sincere desire to grow in my imperfect love for you. Help me to prepare myself to receive the gift of your Passion, and to live a life pleasing to you. Holy Spirit, reveal to me the beams in my eye that blind me to your love and the love of my neighbor. Show me where to change and give me the discipline to change. Lead me in your merciful love, which makes up for my imperfections. With your help, I can see my faults. With your grace, I can root them out. Hear me and help me. Amen.
Let Us Begin
Lent is the perfect time to notice, name, and reflect upon the beam in my eye and make deliberate efforts to remove it. We all have many sinful inclinations, but the best way to make progress over these next forty days is to choose a few critical areas, set manageable goals, and focus our efforts very deliberately.
Questions for Meditation
Take these questions into prayer and meditation. Make some notes. Be deliberate and methodical, not just skimming over them, but reflecting upon them. Sit quietly now or later in prayer, or take this to the Blessed Sacrament. Let's do this!
What are the beams in my eye?
Are there little idols that have taken the place of God in my life?
Small but insidious things that may be almost unnoticeable, like the way I choose to spend my time? Do these eliminate my time with God in prayer or other ways?
Do I give him priority of place, or have other things displaced Him in my life? What are those things?
What one or two deliberate Lenten practices can I can adopt this season to interrupt that cycle and make Him my priority?
What persistent behaviors do I need to remove from my life?
What behaviors blind me to God's love or separate me from Him? Are there things I am not doing that I know I should be doing? What are they?
(Of these, choose one or two behaviors. Set the others aside and come back to them later, one at a time, as you seek to advance spiritually.)
What one or two deliberate Lenten practices I can adopt to change or eliminate these behaviors?
Are there things in my life that need purging?
Past hurts separating me from God, people I follow in my personal life, on social media, or otherwise, whose opinions are shaping mine in a way that is not Godly or ideal? What do I need to let go of in order to grow closer to the Lord?
What one or two deliberate actions can I take this Lent to remove these obstacles?
Are there people I have judged harshly or hurt wrongly, with whom I need to make amends?
Have I withheld forgiveness or held onto a grudge? Failed to show charity when God has called me to charity?
We live in disordered times when it is tempting to look at the depravity around us and condemn others for their sins. In the image Jesus uses, my beam is much larger than my neighbor's splinter. We cannot bring about His Kingdom if we do not first change ourselves. The sin that matters most right now is my own.
What one or two deliberate actions can I take this Lent to make reparation for hurts I have caused others? Go to Confession? Begin to pray regularly for those I have hurt? What more should I do?
Lord Jesus, give me the grace to enter into this season joyfully and deliberately. Give me the perseverance to remove the beam from my eye, and renew my commitment to continuous conversion. Reveal to me the prayer, sacrifices, and almsgiving that will be most pleasing to you, so that I can offer you my whole heart and imitate you in your sacrifice for God the Father. Make my resolutions fruitful, out of my desire to love you more deeply and purely. Remain constantly with me, and help me live a life dedicated to pleasing you in every way. Amen.
Our Deliberate Lent
For years I gave up chocolate for Lent, and sacrificed other things I enjoyed, without considering the many deliberate ways in which I could be working for my own continuous conversion during these forty days. Making the sincere and purposeful effort to grow spiritually means taking on specific acts that will work for our personal good.
Give up chocolate too! That's admirable, especially if you have a sweet tooth! Practicing discipline of the will is always important in the spiritual life, but this year, don't limit yourself to the low-hanging fruit. Enter into the liturgical season fully, by choosing Lenten practices that will suit your needs and help you remove the beam from your eye. Over time, these advance the lifelong process of your conversion.
When we are are actively pursuing our own conversion, we can better assist those around us, ushering in His Kingdom. This Lent, determine your spiritual needs, then take on specific prayer, disciplines, and almsgiving to address them. When you can see more clearly, without the beam, you can become what God invites you to be.
The Catholic Company wishes you a fruitful, sincere, and deliberate Lent. May we enter into it together, praying for one another, until we celebrate the joyous occasion of our salvation at Easter.