We are all works-in-progress. I’ve got my own weeds that need pulling, rocks that need moving, branches that need pruning. I’m a mess. And as soon as I think I’ve got one thing under control, something else pops up and knocks me down again. But God is the most patient gardener, who never stops working so that I might become what He wants me to be, and bear fruit. He doesn’t care what it costs.
Or, maybe for some of you they don’t and you’ve been able to keep a solid Lenten journey? Regardless, there’s always room for growth, depth… and some Lenten punches of improvement.
Here are some practical suggestions to help you in the remaining time of Lent.
I know you guys lead busy lives. Our culture, your teachers, parents, friends, yourself – there is pressure from every direction to boost your resume and increase your chances of getting into the very best college. The result of this pressure is an overwhelming schedule that includes: school, homework, time with the Lord, family, a social life, part time jobs, clubs, honor society, athletics, volunteer work and oh yeah… sleep.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure not only to participate in most, or all, of these things, but to do them all perfectly. You are expected as a freshman in high school to juggle a schedule that is four times what it should be.
This is a problem in our culture, but the bigger problem is – it has become the norm. Anything less than this business is perceived as laziness.
The Stations of the Cross are prayers that help us meditate on Jesus’ Passion and sacrifice for us. They incorporate the use of Scripture, prayers, meditations, and songs while traveling to 14 stations. The Stations are based upon Scriptural accounts from the time when Jesus was condemned to death until He was laid in the tomb. The practice of taking a pilgrimage to follow Jesus’ steps on the way to His crucifixion has existed since the early Church. It’s an opportunity for us to truly enter into the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ passion and death, which prepares us for His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
I probably don’t need to remind you of this, every fast food chain flashing signs of fish sandwiches is reminder enough.
But just in case…
It is still Lent.
I would imagine this reality will either elicit two kinds of responses in you. Either you are coasting through Lent without much struggle to keep your Lenten promises, or you are wondering how in the world you are going to keep to your fasts the remainder of Lent.
But when I really look at my heart, I’ve begun to wonder if I feel more affirmed by the Lord’s love in my life or by the little endorphine-hit I get when someone retweets me. So this year I’m giving up social media for Lent. No Valencia-filtered selfies. No “Let it Go” covers. No check-ins at my favorite coffee shop. Instead, I’ve got five reasons why giving up social media for Lent is going to be great for my life.
So, I committed: 40 minutes of “devotional time” every single day. You can call it quiet time, prayer time, or just… time – whatever you need to call it so it doesn’t sound like a punishment. I didn’t really know what to call it. I just knew that I was going to do it.
Think about it: 40 minutes isn’t a huge block of time. It’s one drama or two sitcoms on Netflix. We can all find 40 minutes in a day. We just have to choose to do it.
However, I worry that if we don’t learn to use things for the good of the Kingdom of God, we might be missing the boat. It’s the same with using your humor to glorify God, or using your body to glorify God, or using your music to glorify God – we can use our phones the same way.
Here’s the thing about Lent: Your thing is your thing. What you give up and what you add on is between you and God, not you and your friends. If you want to bring them into it, asking them to walk with you or hold you accountable, all power to you. If you don’t want anyone but God to know, that’s okay, too.
If, however, you take every opportunity (consciously or unconsciously) to share just how much you’re giving up or how much you’re doing, it’s not holiness you’re seeking — it’s attention.
Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.
So what exactly was Jesus talking about when He said, 'It is finished'?
Due to our fallen nature, we need God's help; we need His grace so that we can walk the road of repentance. Remember, God can only share with us that which He has.
Once Jesus has done all this, poured out His love so incredibly, we deny Him. We turn down His love in the most horrifying way . . . by putting Him to death.
He accepts it. He embraces it. He hangs on the cross and says, “I thirst.”
This summer I read about Blessed Mother Teresa. At the center of her spirituality were these two words of Jesus: “I thirst.” Her love and devotion to Christ can be summed up in that simple phrase. She understood what Christ meant when He spoke those words.
Sometimes light reveals things that we don't want to see. Lent has a way of doing that. It causes a little bit of pressure and stress, and shows us just how weak we can be sometimes. In my case, sitting in the sun revealed some things in me that I needed to work on. Had I gone and escaped into the shade, I may have missed out on the chance to improve myself.
Sometimes God seems far from us. Sometimes it seems as if He's forsaken us completely.
When I was sixteen, my dad died from lung cancer. Both during his illness and after his death, I felt very alone, both in a worldly sense – none of my friends had lost a parent’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùand in a spiritual sense. Part of me believed that God let my dad die, and that he'd left me alone to suffer and grieve.
You see, Mary is our Mother, whether we want her to be or not. God, our Father has made it so through His son's words. He knew our need for a motherly presence in the spiritual realm. So, with His dying breath, 'Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, He said to his mother, ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏWoman, behold, your son.' Then He said to the disciple, ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏBehold, your mother'' (John 19:26-27).
How crazy is that? Now that is mercy!
Big surprise, huh? I've spent many of my 22 years dreaming up the most perfect wedding. And since the creation of Pinterest, the harmless dreaming has become a borderline-addictive pinning-spree of dresses, cakes and the world's most adorable flower girl outfits. So, it's only natural, that I fell in love with the story of the Wedding at Cana when I started praying the rosary regularly last year.
Perhaps the toughest part of forgiveness is forgiving ourselves. This Lent, I've made specific efforts to forgive myself for past wrongdoings. I've reflected on what lead me to those sins or mistakes. I've confessed them and have felt Jesus take them off of my shoulders. The freedom that comes with Jesus' forgiveness is life-changing. But we have to let it change our lives. We have to accept that He forgives us. He doesn't hold a grudge, so who are we to hold one?
Jesus Christ is both justice and mercy. The Law of Moses required for the woman to be stoned; He didn't fail to invite others to stone her. He even opened up the opportunity for others to condemn the woman, but only if they met the qualification that He knew no one (besides His mother & Himself ) could meet: 'let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her' (John 8:7).
Among all the people that were present, Christ could've immediately condemned her by His own standards. But He did not condemn her; He showed her mercy.