Lent really makes sense when we feel our need for God.
During these forty days of preparation for Easter many well-intentioned Christians take up Lenten disciplines of fasting and penance. Such practices bear real fruit for the one who humbly acknowledges their personal powerlessness and sinfulness and sincerely seeks the mercy of God.
And isn’t one of the greatest human experiences to know that we are loved despite and even because of our imperfections and failures?
In one of my favourite prayers Jesuit superior general Pedro Arrupe puts it powerfully. From the midst of his suffering he prayed:
“More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.
But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.
It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself so totally in God’s hands”.
Perhaps the key to human (and therefore spiritual) growth is to let God take the initiative? There’s a real Lenten invitation: to relax a little and invite Jesus Christ to take the initiative for growth, peace and joy in our lives.
Last weekend I was in Timaru, my home town, for Masses. As I drove past the house that was my family home I recalled my father teaching me to plant seeds when I was a young child. Dad told me that I needed to leave the seeds alone assuring me that God would do the work. Each day I made sure that the soil had some water, and even though I kept wanting to dig the seeds up to see how they were doing, I left them alone.
Within a few days, green shoots of life appeared from the soil. Yes I was full of desire, and every day watched my little patch of soil, but I really had done nothing but wait in hope. It was God who gave the growth.
It is helpful for us to remember that in the northern hemisphere, these are springtime days and the word “Lent” in Old English, means “springtime” or “lengthening of days”.
Lent is a season of growth.
You might like to try:
Lectio Divina – Today’s gospel reading from the liturgy for Ash Wednesday offered as a 15 and 25 minute guided meditation
Some written resources for Ash Wednesday prepared by the National Liturgy Office of Aotearoa New Zealand at this link
Pray to Sleep: A guided audio reflection for bedtime: