Oh Lent. We have a bit of a strained relationship, you and I.
Tomorrow starts the most solemn season of the liturgical year, and I am looking at the calendar thinking, “What in the world happened?” I wanted to dive in deep this year, but instead I feel like I’ve been floundering in the shallow end. Never before have I struggled so much to adhere to my Lenten resolutions, even to the point of wanting to revamp them completely. Those thoughts of “I’ll give myself a break this time” quickly led downhill until before I knew it, I found myself saying, “Well, what’s the point now?”
But that is the point. Lenten resolutions give us important practice in discipline, so that when we are faced with a choice between good and evil, we have the strength to choose right. It might seem silly that saying “no” to a hazelnut latte prepares me to say “no” to temptations from the devil, but my-oh-my, have you ever looked at a hazelnut latte after going weeks without drinking one? It takes on a life of its own, I tell ya.
So here we are in Holy Week, and I’m feeling just as weak as ever. Today I sat down with the boys to read a story, and Lucian brought me the book You Are Mine by Max Lucado. It’s the second story in a series about a wooden Wemmick named Punchinello. At the end of the first story, Punchinello has an encounter with Eli the Woodcarver and it changes his life. But in the follow-up story that we read today, he is just as susceptible to peer pressure and has to repeat the whole process of discovering his worth in the eyes of his Maker.
I feel a lot like Punchinello. Again and again, I turn back to God… and again and again I fall. If there is one thing I have learned this Lent, it is that I can’t do it on my own. More than ever, I am thankful for the gift of confession. Like Peter in yesterday’s Gospel, I tell the Lord over and over that I will lay down my life for him. Like Peter, when I am really tested I deny him.
But Peter was given the keys to the kingdom! God works wonders through us if we just turn back to Him. Each time we admit our weakness, we allow Him to give us a little more of His strength.
If you haven’t yet been to Confession during Lent, brave the long lines and GO! The Cathedral of St. Paul has scheduled times every day until Easter, and I’m sure many other churches in your area are offering the same. If it’s been months, years, even decades since you last went, it can seem terrifying. But follow the advice of Blessed John Paul II and “be not afraid!” And then read this article by a young priest, telling us what goes through his head when someone confesses their sins to him. (Hint: nowhere does he say “I realize that she is a horrible person and I’ll never look at her the same again)
God never, ever turns away from us. He is standing there waiting with open arms, but are we willing to turn back to Him?