Well, here we are, halfway through Lent. What does that mean? It’s time to give up? (pun intended) No, not so fast!
These forty days…this is game time for us as Catholics! And that still applies to the second half of Lent. It’s game time! Game time for what, though? It’s game time to embrace our God-given identity. Becoming more fully who God has created you to be so that you can be fully ready to receive him at Easter! That’s what Lent is all about.
Do you remember the Gospel of Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 proclaimed at Mass on Ash Wednesday?
“Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
What came to mind as you refreshed yourself on the Ash Wednesday Gospel reading? Did discomfort come to mind?
We oftentimes find ourselves tempted to flee discomfort, the demands of God’s love in our daily lives…to flee what God designed for us…and even be apathetic to the things of God – praying, receiving the Sacraments, loving our neighbor, and being faithful in everyday responsibilities.
Embracing Your God-Given Design
But, if we pause for a moment and think more deeply, we realize that God knows what we need much more than we do. He tells us in the Ash Wednesday Gospel reading that we need to be people of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. That’s for what we were designed and that’s how we become more fully human, more fully alive!
- Almsgiving (the gift of ourselves) – We are called to be self-gift, to be moving and not idle.
- Prayer (communication with God) – We are called to be in an ongoing conversation with God, in comm-union with the One who made us for Himself.
- Fasting (denying ourselves physical/spiritual goods) – We are called to empty ourselves, to experience an ache, to know we are not complete, so as to fill ourselves with the One who completes us.
We are constantly tempted to doubt who we truly are. Therefore, these three ancient Lenten practices are tools, mechanisms, spiritual “exercises”, that improve our relationship with God and help us reclaim our identity and to be honest about who we are and what that design calls us to. After all, “God doesn’t want your chocolate; He wants you (Unknown)!”
You Are God’s Beloved Daughter
Every day, we should reclaim our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. Jesus went before us and did this, Himself!
We don’t get to design ourselves or even decide on what our identity is based on. God already did that work for us!
Father Henri Nouwen explains that even Jesus had to claim and reclaim His identity. In His forty days in the desert (symbolized by Lent,) the only way the devil knew to tempt Jesus was by trying to move Him away from his core identity.
It makes sense, then, that right before Jesus goes to the desert and even into active ministry, God affirms His identity at His baptism. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (MT 3:17).”
God says the same thing to you: You are loved. No one, not the devil, nor ourselves (who can be our own worst enemy) can contradict that. It’s written in the core of who you are. You could never undo it, even if you wanted to. And no one wants to, because that’s for what we thirst! We thirst for intimacy with the One who proclaims to us again and again that we are loved.
As you embrace this second half of Lent, consider this spiritual nugget by Saint Francis de Sales, writing in the seventeenth century: “Therefore, my daughter, be careful and diligent in all your affairs; God, who commits them to you, wills you to give them your best attention.”
Give God glory by giving Lent your all, even if you struggle with spiritual apathy or lack of motivation.
This is your moment to seize the day and to tell that spiritual apathy to go to…well you know where! This is your time! God made you for more! Hold fast to these truths and finish Lent strong!