by Bishop Michael G. Duca
“Repent and believe in the Gospel.‚ÄĚ This is one of the exhortations that can be used for the imposition of ashes and it beautifully sums up the meaning and spiritual challenge of the season of Lent.¬† Each year I try to renew in myself an image of the journey I hope to take during the Lenten season.¬† I think I have come up with one that is simple and clearly illustrates our spiritual goal during this season.
Imagine during this season of Lent that Jesus is coming to our house for a visit.¬† Of course the house he is to visit is within our deepest self and the question is, ‚ÄúHow welcoming will we be?‚ÄĚ
For some, when Jesus knocks at the door they will not even hear the sound of his knocking.¬† If you are truly in this state of mind then God cannot reach you.¬† But if we are even thinking that we might have become that callous to spiritual things, then know that you are hearing the knocking. That small concern or awareness is God breaking through and inviting you to seek Him out in prayer, to show you how to open the door to His mercy and love.
Some of us hear the knock and the call to change our lives, but instead of answering the door we turn off the lights and close the drapes telling Jesus no one is home.¬† This is the man or woman who does not want to change.¬† They like their sinful or self-centered lives.¬† We are all in this position at times and if this Lent we find ourselves with no Lenten practice, instead just living as we always do, then this is us. But Jesus is not just any guest who will eventually get tired and go away. No, Jesus will continue to knock, prick our consciences and, as we become empty from our superficial, self-centered lives or unsatisfied by a life of sin, eventually we will give in and give over to God, who is always waiting at the door.
The way most of us will answer the door gives us an excellent image for Lent. Most of us will be expecting Jesus and will have the living room and maybe even the kitchen all clean as we welcome Jesus in.¬† We will appear to be the most open host, but become a little uneasy when we see Jesus looking down the hall to another room with a closed door.¬† That is the room that is not clean and where we keep a part of our lives separate, a part of our life not yet reformed or likened to Christ.¬† Here is our favorite sin or a deep wound that fuels our shame, anger and unforgivness.¬† This is the room of our insecurities that fuel our vanity, the room of our self-centered pleasures, of our arrogant and judgmental nature.¬† This is the room of our shame, fear and where we keep the part of our life in the dark, away from the healing and forgiving light of Christ‚Äôs love.¬† Here is where Lent should lead us: to open this door to the eyes of Jesus so that what is in the darkness can come into the light.
Our illusion is that we keep this part secret, but remember the New Testament accounts of Jesus after the resurrection that Jesus passed through locked doors.¬† Jesus in fact is already there, waiting for us to trust Him.¬† This Lent take the exhortation of Ash Wednesday to heart and ‚ÄúRepent and believe in the Gospel.‚ÄĚ
Choose a Lenten practice that will begin the deepening of your conversion to Christ.¬† If it is a serious sin, then seek out the confessional, open the doors to that closed room and let the light of Christ‚Äôs forgiving love shine in and dispel the darkness of our lives.¬† Then, start going more regularly to confession and stay faithful to the daily struggle to fight temptation. If you have stayed away from Church, come home again and discover the joy of being an active member of a parish and of once again receiving the body and blood of Christ into your very self.¬† If pride is locked in our closed off room, then ask God for humility and choose a Lenten practice of service to the poor or to someone in need in your neighborhood or your own family.¬†¬† Let go of your arrogant judgment of others and find ways to understand others‚Äô sufferings and struggles so that arrogance and judgment can be replaced with compassion and love.
Let us throw open the doors of our heart to Christ this Lent.¬† In prayer invite Jesus into your deepest self and ask that he shine the light of his love and mercy into those places of darkness that we keep closed and hidden. Do not be afraid!¬†¬† Reform your lives and hear the Good News. Open up the room of darkness in your life and let in the LIGHT.