The Secret of Lent

Like New Year's Day, Lent is a time when we attempt to make resolutions to change for the better. Unfortunately, we often make too many resolutions. When we find we cannot keep them, we fall into discouragement. This Lent, I suggest that we learn from the example of St. Faustina and imitate how she lived Lent in a simple, but holy way.

How did she do this? Obedience. In the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, paragraph 933, Jesus indicates to St. Faustina that there is a greater reward for obedience to her confessor than any practices she herself could carry out. Unlike St. Faustina, most of us are not consecrated religious and so do not have a regular confessor. So how can we please the Lord by obedience?

The first way is to ask ourselves, "How obedient am I to the Church and Her teaching, especially on difficult topics (such as human sexuality or the hard teaching of the Sermon on the Mount)?" We may be aware of certain difficult aspects of Church teaching, but do we live all of it? More importantly, do we even know the Church teachings well enough so that we might strive to be obedient?

Secondly, in daily life, how often do we deny our own will so as to put others first and love our neighbor as ourselves? Saint Therese of Lisieux made a resolution to obey not only her superiors but all her sisters, as long as what they asked was not sinful. Are there small requests from others that we put off? Do we insist upon our own needs and wants and ignore the needs of others?

Saint Faustina in her Diary, 934, records her own small practices for Lent: sleeping without a pillow, remaining a little hungry after meals, praying the Chaplet with arms outstretched for the intention of making reparation for sinners and priests. Instead of simply giving up a favorite food until Easter, what other little penances can we offer up? Saint Faustina was creative in this regard. We can ask her intercession that we might have that creativity with our penances, creativity that flows from love for Christ Crucified.

One other suggestion, which comes from Jesus Himself, is to meditate upon the Passion frequently, during which, as St. Paul states, Jesus was obedient to the Father even unto death (see Phil 2:8). When St. Faustina was denied permission for certain mortifications, the Lord taught her that there is more merit to an hour of meditation on His Passion than a year of mortification (see Diary 369, 737, 1512, 1657). When St. Faustina asked her superior at another time for permission to fast, it was denied due to her poor health. Instead, she was told to meditate upon the Passion - particularly how Jesus accepted vinegar and gall - while eating. As St. Faustina wrote: "The benefit is that I am meditating constantly on His sorrowful Passion and so, while I am eating, I am not preoccupied with what I am eating, but am reflecting on my Lord's death" (Diary, 618).

The goal of Lent is not simply self-improvement or adding to resolutions. Rather, as St. Faustina learned, it is a time to be conformed to Christ in His Passion, so that we might share, too, in His glory (see Diary, 446). Let us desire, then, to be obedient to Jesus, for our salvation came about through His obedience, and we receive the grace of our salvation through our obedience to Him.


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