I felt like a petulant child during the homily at Mass several weeks ago. Father had mentioned that we ought to consider preparing for Lent, as it can sometimes sneak up on us. I crossed my arms and tuned out. Really, Father? You’re bringing up Lent? Why are we bringing this up before we have to? Really?!
I find it difficult to feel excited about Lent. Maybe I’m soft, but the prospect of 40 days of penance does not thrill me. I’m not one of those Catholics who easily rejoices in the cross, in fact I have actually spent plenty of time avoiding it. That being said, this is precisely the reason that I love Lent: because I hate it.
The reason that I don’t like Lent is that I don’t like discomfort. I don’t like to suffer, to be selfless, or to be detached. I like my time, my food, my indulgences, and my laziness. I don’t like being challenged to put my priorities where they belong, and I don’t like doing the work of actually putting those priorities in order.
At the same time, I understand that love is sacrifice. God proved his love for us in the willing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Likewise, the love I show for my husband, my children, family, friends, and strangers consists largely in putting their good above my comfort. The love I show is made up of sacrifices about which I do not complain and which I do not flaunt.
This is why I am grateful for this liturgical season: Lent is the fortification of our love. It demands that we place love of God properly at the center of our hearts, past our self centered comforts and desires. It helps us to detach from the things of the world which we know can never fully capture our hearts so that we might cling to the mystery of the resurrection, in which we find the truth of love and eternal life.
Pope Benedict addressed pilgrims in 2005 saying, “The ways of the Lord are not easy, but we were not created for an easy life, but for great things, for goodness.” It is not by comfort that we achieve great deeds or great love, but by sacrifice and effort. As we continue in this season, let’s remind ourselves what we were made for, and make that greatness our goal.