DCN. HENRY REYES
Lent is a wonderful time of year to give up the idea that we are perfect. Part of the Lenten practice is to look within ourselves, find there areas that need work and spend the days and weeks of Lent chipping away at our rough edges and revealing the person God created us to be.
I think it is a privilege and an honor to be a parent. It is also a nearly an impossible task. I am the first to admit that parenting can make one feel like a failure, inadequate and just plain lost. All of these are wonderful topics to explore during Lent.
We measure our success by our ideals. We think that because we have not achieved the level of success or the level of virtue that we imagined, then we must have failed. Granted that we are all reaching for the highest we can; it is the consistent striving that is most important. Is it more important that I reach X level of sanctity or that I am consistently striving to be better than I was yesterday? We must strive, we must “keep on keeping on.” We cannot stop, even if we feel we haven’t gotten very far. We cannot stop even when we are disgusted with our lack of progress. We need to read the word of God, which tells us, “For he says: ‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 We need to take these words to heart and ask God for help and begin again or pick up where we left off. Truly Holy and Merciful is our God who is ready to forgive the repentant: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not record.” Romans 4:7-8 It was by the cross of Jesus that we were offered this unfathomable mercy and love by which all people can have a chance to reach out to God in sorrow and find mercy and find a second or third or 100th chance to begin again.
If we feel inadequate, we must be doing some type of comparison. I am inadequate as compared to my neighbor, my coworker, my sibling. Or maybe we are back to feeling inadequate as compared to our ideal image of ourselves or compared to some image we gleaned from a movie or book or blog or magazine. It is common for people to see the best in others, or at least to imagine that the grass is greener on the other side, but then we see the worst in ourselves, and no matter how green our grass, we notice the imperfections. There is perhaps a sobering and liberating truth here: we are not created all the same. It is sobering because, even with practice, we may never be as good as the lead singer in the choir; it is sobering because, no matter how high our heels, we may never be as tall as we wanted; or no matter how hard we try, we might not be able to memorize entire encyclopedias of information like other people seem to do. At the same time, it is liberating because we can stop trying to be someone we are not. We might not be the best singer or the tallest or have the best memory. That is not who we are but neither is the best singer necessarily the tallest nor the tallest necessarily have the best memory. God made us unique, on purpose. He didn’t just want to make a photocopy of someone else. He loved us too much. His love was too specific and too big to make us like someone else. We were made for him. “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works.” Psalms 139:13-14 This Lent, instead of feeling inadequate, perhaps we can spend some of our prayer time reflecting on how his love for us is specific, how he created us the way he wanted and how we can respond to his majestic love with lives lived in gratitude and virtue and striving for his heart.
We get lost when we either lose our way or forget the destination. The goal for every member of our family is heaven, plain and simple. Everything on this side of the veil is temporary but important. We all know that $1,000 is temporary, but what we do with it is important. Do we pay the rent or mortgage so that our family has somewhere to live for another month or do we waste it gambling and endanger the safety and well-being of our family? This is more or less the same for all material things: they can be put to good use or not. People who are very physically attractive get lost thinking their looks will last forever or they lose their way chasing what their looks will get for them. But the goal is heaven, whether you are a supermodel or basic model. A nice rule of thumb would be, “How will this contribute to my eternal destination?” Some decisions might contribute very little, like brushing your teeth every day, but you do it anyway in order to take care of this temporary body ,which we must inhabit during our earthly pilgrimage. Other decisions, like deciding to honor your marriage vows or to pray for 15 minutes every day or to set aside one evening a week for works of charity, could have big consequences. Another way to put the rule of thumb is: How am I using the temporary possessions or circumstances of my life to contribute to my or other’s eternal destination?
We are in Lent and we can either use the time for our benefit or just let it slip away. We can imagine we have lots of Lents to get it right but we might not. Why not ponder these three things now? Why not meditate on our own feelings of failure or inadequacy in the presence of the Word of God? We can find His Word in the Holy Scriptures or we can find him at Eucharistic Adoration or we can find him in both places at the same time. It makes all the difference in our world to think about if we are lost or forgot our destination. Let’s allow God to pierce us to the core this Lent. I think we will be pleasantly surprised by the result.
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, … Therefore, … we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. Hebrews 4:12,15-16