We begin the Lenten Season. According to the intention of the Church, it is a time of renewal, penance and conversion. For the first Christians, the proclamation of penance was “Good News.” God was going to forgive them their failings, God was going to reveal his love and compassion for them.
For us modern people today, it seems that Lent has more to do with bad news. Commonly, in a Christian assembly when people speak of Lent, penance, and sacrifice, many seem sad. They become fearful about what they hold most dear: Their iphone, cigarettes, television, good food… What might be the reason for this change between the early and the modern Christians?
In the early Church, only those who had committed serious crimes did penance. They were called public penitents. But on Holy Thursday, at the Mass of reconciliation, these sinners radiated restoration and happiness. Other faithful felt jealous of them. They lamented not having experienced such a charitable penance. The following years, they too would ask to be admitted to the Lenten penance.
How about the Christians of today? We think too much of ourselves. We think about the renunciations, the cross, sacrifices, Lenten confession…..as things which will cost us something and which we fear.
But we often fail to focus on God who summons us…..Who is waiting for us and who will turn everything into joy if we surrender our heart to him.
Many of us Christians have a defected idea and even a false idea about our religion. Many of us believe that religion consists in what we do for God, in those unpleasant things which we impose on ourselves for God. And we go on thinking to ourselves: “How many things I’ve done for God! I’ve sacrificed so much for Christ! I’ve renounced so many things for love of God!” But if we do this, we miss the point.
The authentic Christians are the ones who focus on the things God has done for them. They make a habit of rejoicing on the great and marvelous blessings God has poured onto children. Holding on to this mindset, one never feels satisfied and is often compelled to further conversion. A grateful Christian always wants to grow in their faith and deepen even more their love for God. Practicing Christianity as Christ taught us means to live the religion of the Apostles’ Creed which does not say one single word about us, but sings of all of God’s initiatives to demonstrate his love.
We are Christians, and if after so many years of believing on the Risen Christ, we must by now have realized that God loves us freely. God is Father and to be father is to love first. Parenting is taking the initiative in love. God loved us before we loved him. God loves us even if we don’t love him. God does not need our sacrifices in order to love us. But we can choose to make one in order to express our love for him.
God – like all those who truly love us, like our parents, for example – does not love us because we are worthy of his love. Instead, God loves us because of his nature, his goodness, because of the generosity and faithfulness of his own heart.
God loves us so much that surely he will be able to awaken in us, some day, a love response similar to his. Such a response of love would be, without a doubt, the most beautiful and precious fruitfulness of this Lenten Season.
Would not this love change the sad state of our sacrifices and Lenten renunciations into a joyful witness of our gratitude and generosity toward God?
And applied to us: Would this Lent not be the proper time to grow in sanctity and the time to convert ourselves into new men and women?
I think that Lent is a great opportunity to show God our childlike, faithful and generous love.
Questions for Reflection
1. How do we respond to God’s love?
2. Are renunciations hard for us? Are sacrifices of love for our Father God hard for us?
3. Do we feel loved by God?
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Translation: Carlos Cantú
Edited by: Catholic.net
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