Lent is an opportunity to develop a conscious awareness of Jesus.

February 12, 2024

Are you sure you are prepared to make those sacrifices during Lent? Giving up your favorite television show, swearing at others, eating chocolate, or perhaps starting an exercise routine. Is this something you want to start during Lent? You will either quit after three days or stop altogether after Lent is over and then what is the point? Perhaps you might try to be considerate of those around you instead of yourself. On second thought, maybe not, you like yourself too much. Praying at the crack of dawn for more than five minutes a day might be something manageable and not too difficult to start and maintain throughout Lent. But that means less sleep, I am not sure you want to go that route. How about aimlessly talking about God? I do not see the need to develop a close relationship with Jesus or adopt an ascetical lifestyle just to know Him more intimately. You already see Him at Mass from time to time so that should suffice for your Lenten sacrifice.

Anyone who intends to embrace the season of Lent may experience a similar spiritual conundrum of deciding what to sacrifice e.g., give up for Lent, or simply go through the motions of doing the bare minimum which in the end may be all for nothing. If there is a specific challenge most of us face during the season of Lent is how to embrace the way of Christ through acts of suffering and sacrifice which would be described as prayer, fasting, and abstinence. The Devil desires to create distance between us and his enemy Jesus Christ. The further the distance, the less likely we are to engage Jesus in a relationship at any spiritual level.  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us:

A murderer from the beginning . . . a liar and the father of lies, Satan is the deceiver of the whole world. Through him, sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat, all creation will be freed from the corruption of sin and death. Now we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.[1] 

The season of Lent initiates our way through the desert of faith where nothing else can sustain us except a sincere and genuine love for Jesus Christ. The nourishing effects of Jesus’ love expressed through his death inaugurate a pathway to Him by way of his death for the destruction of sin and the empty promises of the Devil. In the book of Hebrews, we are reminded that we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.[2]

The gift of grace rests on the need to keep the will of God firmly in our hearts. Sirach reminds us of this when he stresses the importance of keeping the commandments, as they will be our salvation; and if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him. Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and all-seeing. The eyes of God are on those who fear him; he understands man’s every deed. No one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin.[3]

The opportunity to develop a conscious awareness of Jesus requires a renunciation of sin, all and any human acts that impede our ability to be aware of his presence, even while at Mass or in Eucharistic adoration. When we choose to radically orient our life to Christ through a life of interior repentance which involves reception of the sacrament of penance, this is where I argue when we begin to see and experience the presence of Christ in our lives. We transition from a desire to sin to a desire to love Jesus and develop a distaste for our former sinful life. It is a gradual turn toward a conversion and confession of faith where our hearts become immediately illuminated when we encounter our Savior and King. The Catechism describes that a conversion of the heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunction cordis (repentance of heart)[4].

Awareness of Christ requires an awareness of our sins which directs us to turn away from these sins, confess them, remove them from our daily living, and embrace the love of Jesus Christ as offered through his death. St. John in his first epistle reminds us that Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil[5] thus clearing the path for us to fall in love with our Lord in a most intimate way through his death. Let’s not forget that the Devil’s power is not infinite. The Catechism describes him as:

only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign.[6]

As we prepare for our Lenten journey let us take the words of St. Paul to the Romans as the seed for developing a sincere and loving awareness of Jesus Christ in our lives.

What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.[7]

 

[1] CCC 2852

[2] Heb 4:15-16

[3] Sirach 15:15-20

[4] CCC 1431

[5] 1 Jn 3:8

[6] CCC 395

[7] Rom 8:31-39

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