Finding Happiness in Our Lenten Journey

There is something tremendously appealing about the season of Lent. This may seem counter-intuitive to some of us. We can ask ourselves why it is we find such happiness in a stretch of time that invites us to take a hard look at what in our lives keeps us from fully living out our relationship with Jesus Christ.

 I have a close friend who loves to tease me every year when Lent rolls around. She misunderstands my joy in this season as self-recrimination and enjoyment in gloom and judgment. I continue to pray and have hope that she will eventually see these 40 days as one of the greatest gifts of our Church. Where else in our lives do we have the opportunity to create space for the One who loves us more than anyone else? Who else calls to us, over and over, without tiring of responses that often fall short? I don’t know about you, but every year I find that I need Lent more than ever. The more I open myself to Jesus in my life, the more I desire a complete spring cleaning of my heart.

For me, Lent is much like the weeks before I throw a party or have houseguests. Most of the time, I think my housekeeping is adequate. There aren’t many glaringly obvious signs of dirt (just the usual clutter that comes with having children). Just please don’t show up unannounced and open my bedroom closets or look behind my oven. It’s inevitable, though, that once I know I’ll be having company, the to-do list of cleaning to prepare for their arrival is long. I spend the weeks scrubbing and organizing, prioritizing and purging, until everything is ready for those I love. I look around and tell my husband that we should have company more often so our house is always that clean. Then the guests arrive, and I am better able to relax and spend time with them and get closer to them, knowing that I’ve prepared a comfortable and welcoming place for them.

So it is with Lent. All year, I do my best to make time for the Lord in my life and all year I feel like I do an adequate job. Then Lent arrives, and our celebration of Jesus’ great sacrifice and triumph over sin is approaching. It’s time to start a thorough cleaning and preparation in my heart for his arrival. Every year the list of how I can better my relationship is longer than I think. And every year, because of the effort I spend during Lent, I clear away enough to make more room in my heart for him.

It is not easy though. It’s hard work and requires time and a willingness to really look at what’s in need of our attention. It demands that we use all that we have at our disposal and cries out for help from others. Lent, and later

Holy Week, allow us to slow down and make very real room in our lives for God. For some this can be as simple as waking up ten minutes earlier and reading and reflecting on Scripture. I’d recommend starting with Mark’s Gospel but any will do. For others it may mean dusting off a treasured rosary and making that wonderful prayer and meditation on the story of Jesus. For still others it may be a retreat, Stations of the Cross, going to confession, or listening to music that inspires in us, love for Jesus. The gifts of our faith are many. Whichever we choose to accept can enrich and deepen our closeness to God, our Father. It’s not important what we do, but that we allow ourselves, and others, time to grow in gratitude.

Sometimes the most difficult thing to find lurking in the back of the closets of our hearts is apathy. We may find that although we are outwardly dedicated to the obligations of our faith, that is where our interest ends. And that’s okay; it’s natural for our faith to ebb and flow. Lent can be an opportunity to open ourselves up honestly to what is at the root of our apathy. Then, once revealed, we can and should spend some time praying about it. We can spend time in silent stillness that makes room for God’s answer to us, and then awesomely, begin the work of clearing it away. Maybe you’ll be drawn to confession for the first time in many, many years (or your first time ever). Maybe you’ll decide you want to learn more about Scripture and you’ll sign up for a class or Bible study. Maybe you’ll begin to notice those among us at St. Peter’s who radiate their love of Jesus and you’ll find ways to spend more time around them.

This year, our community is especially blessed because we will welcome a new member into our Christian family at the Easter Vigil. This is so important that even the Gospel readings change. In those parishes who look forward to adult Baptism at Easter, we hear stories from Luke that allude to Baptism. In Baptism, our own and our witness of others, we have an encounter with Jesus. In Baptism, we are not only cleansed, but also healed and restored. Baptism is where our discipleship begins. Every year I am blessed to be a part of this sacred event and my faith is renewed and restored. Every year I stand in awe of the beauty and glory of God’s mercy. When I witness the joy in Deb as she draws nearer to her death and rebirth in Christ Jesus, my heart expands and Jesus immediately fills that space with his love. If you feel any less than joyful exuberance about your faith, I want to extend to you a special invitation to make the Triduum a part of your Easter celebration this year. Sure, it’s three nights, and yes, the Easter Vigil is late and long. But, in my opinion, it’s worth every sacrifice and every minute. It’s the story of our faith. It’s our story. Make it your story.

May God bless you with a new and deep awareness of His love and mercy this Lent and beyond.

Leave a Reply