by Jamie Myrose
We happen again upon my faith formation classroom in the basement of St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill. This week’s lesson for my 25 little souls is Lent. My co-teachers and I think the easiest way to explain Lent is to ask three questions: what are you praying for, what are you giving up, and what are you doing? When asked, one of the kids responds that she was doing faith formation. While I told her that she should do something she was not already doing, she insisted that this would be her Lenten activity. Her comment got me thinking: were there things that I said I was doing but was not truly living out?
Lent is a season of preparation, an opportunity to separate ourselves from the things that keep oneself from God and to grow closer to the things that make God present in our lives. But the three pillars of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—are things that we should be doing every day of our lives. We should pray to God in all times and all seasons, fast from evil practices and ways of thinking, and give of ourselves out of love for those in need. Yet during Lent we are reminded of the pillars’ importance in the Christian life and are challenged to live them in a new and life-giving way.
The Christian life must be an authentic one, in which our actions match the promises of our speech as best as we are able. Jesus, the model for Christian living, said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13). And Jesus did give his life for his friends, taking concrete action in virtue of his promise. While our daily situations may not necessarily require the sacrifice of our lives, they do require that we recognize our own hypocrisy and inconsistency. There is the real and present danger of being content to do nothing while others are virtuous. It is the temptation to be satisfied with being “nice” but never striving to be “good.” This is not the authentic life to which all Christians are called.
Being good is difficult, and God recognizes this. There is a reason why it is suggested that we go to confession during Lent. During Lent, we prepare, so that—when Easter Sunday arrives—we are the best Christians that we can be. This preparation is not just for the sake of Easter, but rather, it is done in hopes of making a permanent change. It is a time to pray that the spiritual advances we make during the Lenten season will be lasting ones.
In short: I challenge you. In addition to any other promises you have made during Lent, take a look at the practices in your own life and ask yourself, “I am living authentically?” Let this Lenten season be a time of growth, and one that bears good fruit.