Lent: A Time for Humility and Honesty
The sacred season of Lent, when we join in spirit with Jesus in his forty days of fasting in the desert, is upon us. We are called to contemplate the misery our sins, but more importantly, our hope in the One who died for all mankind. The reality of our sinfulness is called to mind by the ashes imposed on our foreheads. Sin soils our souls just as the burnt remains of the blessed palms leave a dark blot upon us. Yet the sooty ashes are traced in the form of Christ’s cross to remind us that Jesus’ death has washed away all the filth and ugliness of our sins. We have simply to turn to him and seek his forgiveness. Yet that is not so easy. Useless and harmful preoccupation with our personal weaknesses can leave us spiritually paralyzed. Lent is a time to remind ourselves that all our strength comes from the Lord.
Psalm 51 enunciates the deep sorrow we sinners feel when we turn to God in search of cleansing: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight.” (1-4a)
When I admit to myself and to God that “my sin is ever before me,” I face a challenge to do something about it. I can either seek to have that sin “blotted out,” or I can make the self-serving false claim that there is nothing to be done since I am weak, and my sins aren’t really that bad, and God loves me as I am, and I am not a bad person, and so on and so forth.
The first course of action requires humility and fortitude. God not only invites us down the path of conversion and repentance; he supplies the grace we need to make that journey. Lent is an extended time for reminding ourselves that trying to rationalize or forget our sins does not take them away. It is only when we admit that we have done wrong, and in faith seek God’s mercy and cleansing, that our burden of evil is lifted from our shoulders. Confession is good for our soul because the soul seeks the joy and beauty of holiness. Our conscience is uneasy when we shortchange ourselves—and God—by settling for the counterfeit happiness of sin.
Becoming comfortable with sin is the goal of one who treats the reproaches of his conscience as uninvited party poopers looking to ruin the fun and excitement of living life in the fast lane. “God knows what I am capable of, and the fact that I enjoy my sinful actions must be a sign that they are not really sins at all, or at least are not sinful for me.” Self-delusion leads to self-forgiveness, something entirely unattainable, but that does not stop people from trying.
Lent is the time to learn from Jesus in the desert that life is not all about me, but all about him. Living life on Jesus’ terms is the only way to satisfy our persistent longing for the purification and wholeness that can only come from being forgiven by the One we have offended.
Thanks Father Murray for the deep article. I also appreciate the title. It is very important to be honest with ourselves first to be able to be honest with God and other people. When life tests us with sufferance, we become humble and I think that it is fundamental to keep that attitude even during sunny days. Unfortunately humility doesn’t always pay off in this world where people tend to be attracted by those who speak loud and are more aggressive. Does it pay off with God though? I think so, and hopefully He sees and takes care. Thanks for your spiritual guidance. Laura
Thank you, Father, for reminding us of the benefits and beauty of seeking the forgiveness of the Lord for all our sins and imperfections.
May God bless us during Lent with the grace to look deeply into our lives, the humility to acknowledge our sins, and the love to thank Him for the wonderful gift of Confession by which we can be renewed during this life. Thank you, Fr. Murray. Thank You, God.