Lent is a time of year for us to recenter, to focus on what matters in life. The coming of Lent reminds us that we live short lives that are full of too many distractions. We are afraid to say "no" for fear of disappointment or disapproval or putting ourselves at risk. But Lent is revolutionary because Lent is promotes the holy "no", a "no" that allows us to be finite, fallible humans in search of deeper meaning. Society (and the powers and principalities of darkness) do not want us to say "no" to those distractions and escapisms, those parts of our ego and pride that get in the way of justice, peace and love. We're meant to simply exist and enjoy God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves and God. That's three-way love that always falls short in the hustle and bustle of life.
Love of God/Creator/Sustainer/Redeemer
Love of Self
Love of Neighbor
Lent is about bringing these into play, equally. Usually, we're good at one of these forms of love and not the other two.
Love of God without love for neighbor leads to righteous indignation.
Love of self without love for God or neighbor leads to selfishness and pride and gluttony and lust.
Love of neighbor without love for self or God leads to masochism (and I don't think you can really love someone well if you don't love yourself).
Lent is about finding a way to correct the imbalance created by busy lives. Lent is a short time for new practices, new habits.
Are you too interested in God and not your neighbor (or, even better, your enemy)?
Are you too interested in self and not your God or your neighbor?
Are you too interested in God and others such that you cannot love yourself?
I think Lenten disciplines need to match our difficulties. If you've been a victim to self-loathing, maybe your practice needs to be to look lovingly into the mirror and thank God for God's image inherent in you, to attempt to cherish your body, your abilities, your innate divine spark. Try the Ignatian Examen as a spiritual exercise.
If you're someone focused on self, someone who judges easily, gossips, or frequently feels that others do you wrong, try being more generous, more flagrant in your gift-giving toward others. Pray to God for direction. Read Scripture. Forgive wrongs, be kind. Give charity to those who don't deserve it. Try setting up an appointment (with me or any priest) to confess your sins and receive counsel. Pray and intercede for others using the daily office as a guide.
If you're too focused on justice or piety or God or church and you find yourself resenting the messiness of mundane life, don't want to get your hands dirty, in the weeds of people's fallibility, try works of charity or giving alms to those who deserve it least. Be present in a "secular" or "less than perfect" space and practice acceptance of the brokenness of life. Listen. Practice gentleness with others. Practice intermittent fasting from food to feel your need, your limits and vulnerability.
Lent reminds us that we don't have time to be too busy for the Creator and Lover of our souls. Lent tells us, like the blessing says, "remember that life is short, and we have little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us along the way" (from this guy). Here are some other ideas for spiritual practices. I, for one, will be deepening my commitment to office prayer, fasting and silent prayer. Please join me!
I hope to see you on Sunday at 2222 Bull Street at 5:30 PM!
May the Peace of Christ be with you this Lenten season,