At this point, we are almost a week into Lent. Many are still wondering, “What am I doing differently this year?” Have we given up chocolate again? Have we promised to be nicer to our brothers and sisters for the 3rd year in a row? Have we committed to give up cursing for all forty days? These are all good questions and ones that we should consider as we continue our Lenten journey. However, the real question is: “is what I am doing now preparing me for Christ?” For me, this is not an easy question to answer. In fact, every year I hate thinking about it. Why? Because it reminds me that I haven’t done enough. It reminds me that I do not have Christ at the center of my life.
It is no secret that we all struggle to keep Christ at the center of our lives, but Lent provides an opportunity to pull back the curtains, open the door anew to Christ, and walk with him. This sounds great, but many of us dread it. We dread committing too much to this Lenten journey, which is why we often turn to giving up candy or junk food instead of giving ourselves wholly and fully to Christ on the cross. Despite this dread, we have nothing to be afraid of. We have only to look at this past Sunday’s Gospel to see that we are not alone: “Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil” (Lk. 4:1-2). Personally, this reminder that Christ also went on a “Lenten journey” of his own helps me to commit more fully to my own journey. Jesus is willing to walk this path with us, so why not commit and walk with him?
As reassuring as this is, I still find the Lenten journey difficult. And it should be, for what will we really gain unless we have to work hard to be true followers of Christ? Journeys have their ups and downs, high days and low days, successes and defeats. Our Lenten journey is not any different. When the journey gets tough, we need look no further than the Holy Family for reassurance that we are on the right path. When we look at Joseph, we are reminded to be silent and to listen to God’s word, to find strength in work and family. When we look at Mary, we are reminded that despite the pain and suffering, she said “Yes” to God and gave everything to Him—all the way to the foot of the cross. Finally we look at Jesus and we are reminded of why we take up the cross.
In January, Pope Francis said “Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant.” During this season of Lent, let us embrace the journey, the good days and the low, because every day is a new opportunity on the path to Christ.
For more resources to guide you through Lent, click here.
Nicholas Shields is a young professional working in Washington, DC.