Prepare to meet your God. Make me a clean heart O God: and renew a right spirit within me. With any important occasion in life such as a marriage, an examination or the arrival of a much awaited son/daughter or close friend, we make preparation, often at great lengths. We do not wait until the event or person has arrived before we start because in a sense that is acting like the foolish virgins in the Gospel. Lent, as it is an important event in the life of a Christian each year, needs similar planning. In order to keep Lent with any kind of discipline and devotion we must be ready. So we have this day, specially set aside to examine our consciences and to be shriven of our sins. Assured of God's forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance/ Reconciliation we have the grace to undertake our Lenten resolutions. The resolutions we make are not just an exercise of will power, but rather a way to help us to grow in love, not only for God but for our fellow man. As St. Basil once pointed out it is no use to abstain from meat, if we devour our brother. To love completely and unconditionally all those with whom we come in contact is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish and we cannot do it without God's grace. Therefore it is imperative to spend time, and plenty of it, simply with God and allowing ourselves to be absorbed by Him. St. Julian of Norwich expressed this so well: "It is God's will that we have three things in our seeking." Firstly we should pursue "His grace" deliberately and diligently, and not lazily; gladly and cheerfully and not sadly. Secondly "that we abide [in] Him steadfastly for His love, without grudging and striving against Him" in our short life here. Thirdly, "we trust in Him" with a complete "and true faith". By seeking Him foremost in our lives, our lives have the right direction. At the beginning of the Reformed Jewish Sabbath Morning Service, the congregation is reminded that "to You, most of our actions are pointless and our daily life is shallow." Let us make sure that our preparation is such that we have a solid foundation to make our lives this Lent purposeful, prayerful and profound.
Perhaps you wonder what kinds of resolutions shall I make? My suggestion is resolutions are only good if they allow us the opportunity to grow in our understanding of who Christ is and how He affects our lives.
However we must never lose sight that Lent is essentially our preparation for the Triduum, those three days that celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, the passion and death of Christ, His descent into hell and His glorious resurrection. These three days are the most important in the Christian Year. So all that we do should lead us to Jerusalem under the governorship of Pontius Pilate.
Dear Saviour who is Love, fill me with Your love that embraces and not holds back, that accepts and not condemns, that forgives and not retaliates, that stretches out and not stagnates.
Make this Lent a postive time, a growing time but also a reflective time to see myself as You see me. It is only when my soul is stripped and naked that I can begin once again. Help me to shed all my wrappings this Lent so that I may stand before You as You know me. Amen.