This month I am writing this with a heart at peace. It is the day after Easter. Lent was a good lent, and Easter has been a wonderful culmination arising from the Lenten season. Both were shared with dear people. Honestly, what I gave up for Lent was something I should have been doing all along. Dessert was one of the things I gave up and according to both the bathroom scales and my doctor I should be cutting down on that anyway. I would have been able to mark down each day that I did not yield to the temptation of breaking the physical sacrifice of what I gave up, and there would be no days unmarked this year. In that regard I was successful, and that is good. This however was not the only reason I feel that Lent was good this year. I was blessed to gain support and deeper understanding of Lenten sacrifices from a number of sources this year, and I couldn’t have done it on my own. Those of you who attended the Men’s Conference this year may recognize this comment…”if Lent were just about will power, it would be a dead end”. I was also fortunate to hear a talk with Deacon Jacob about Living Lent the whole year through. I will try to summarize what I heard that was most important to me this year. It is not so much the exercise of giving something up for Lent. When we choose a Lenten sacrifice the target is something that is a focus of earthly pleasure for us. It can also be a change in habit or behavior for us. Maintaining the sacrifice is half of the measure of success for the sacrifice. To remove that focus is one thing, but to fill that void with a focus on God is the truest success. Through Lent this year, whenever I was handed a tempation to break my sacrifice, I made a conscious effort to think of God. Whether it was a quick prayer, silently placing the sacrifice at the foot of the cross, or offering it up for another’s soul, it was an attempt to replace the void with some aspect of God’s love and mercy.
As Catholics, the one time during the year where we are most visible to the world is during Lent. From the ashes of Ash Wednesday to signs springing up for fish frys to meatless dinner specials all over the nation’s restaraunts, whe world recognizes Catholics during Lent. Many times at work or at some other public place I would be offered of the things I gave up for Lent. That gave me an opportunity to not only test my willpower but also to be recognized as someone trying to stay true to my faith. Sometimes the retort was a comment is jest, such as “ah a good Catholic boy I see,” to which I would respond with a smile, ”well, I am trying to be”. I am pleased to say not once this year was I met with a scornful or rude comment. It is not like that everywhere.
Lastly, something else was a little different for me this year. The Triduum was more personal for me this year. From Holy Thursday’s Mass through Good Friday services I felt a more personal connection with Jesus’s sufferings. When I thought of Jesus being tortured, my own sins came to mind and I had a greater awareness or sense that when Jesus was suffering it was my sins that put him there. Knowing He did this willingly for not just me, but for the multitude of sins of the whole world made me sad. I was then humbled to know and understand that no matter the sin, my remorse and reconciliation allows God’s mercy to release the bonds of hopelessness created by sin and His suffering is not in vain. He loves us so much he can forgive us. God is true to His Word. No greater gift could we receive.