Rediscover Lent (Hardcover)
Be Reconciled Unto God
So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. . . . For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 2 Corinthians 5:20; 6:2
Readings for the Day
Joel 2:12–18; Corinthians 5:20–6:2; Matthew 6:1–1, 6–18
I have spent much of my adult life speaking to groups around the world about Catholic spirituality. One of the questions I am asked most often is, “Why do you put confession first?” Others will say, “You should let people warm up and get comfortable before you drop confession on them.” But there is a reason I place confession first.
When John the Baptist first appeared in the desert of Judea, this was his message: “Repent, prepare the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:2). Later, when Jesus began his ministry, he led with this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
Repent is a powerful word. But what does it mean for you and me, here and now, more than two thousand years later? It means the same as it did to the people walking around the dusty pathways in their sandals, trying to inch closer to Jesus as he passed through their town or village. Repent means “to turn back to God.”
I find myself needing to turn back to God many times a day, in ways small and large. It is not a matter of guilt and it is not a shameful thing. It is simply that at his side I am a better person—a better son, husband, father, brother, friend, employer, and citizen. Over time, I have also come to realize, quite painfully, that when I turn away from God I am also turning my back on my true self.
Where do I stand in my relationship with God? Do I need to turn back to God today?
God of goodness and mercy, hear my prayer this Lenten season. Let me be honest with myself as I look into my heart and soul, noticing the times I turn away from you, then seeking to repent and return to your love. May humility guide my efforts to be reconciled with you and live forever in your abundant grace. Amen.
I am a sinner and need to be saved. I need to be saved from myself and from my sin. There are many people who love me deeply—parents, siblings, friends colleagues, and neighbors—but they cannot save me. I need a savior. It is the clarity of this realization that is life-changing.
Week One: Thursday
Imperfect But Perfectible
“What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” Luke 9:25
Readings for the Day
Deuteronomy 30:15–20; Luke 9:22–25
Every journey toward something is a journey away from something. If we need to turn back to God at this moment in our lives, we also need to turn away from whatever led us away from God and keeps us away. It may be that certain people have led you to stray from God—perhaps possessions have distracted you from your true and authentic self, or maybe pleasure has seduced you into walking a wayward path.
Whatever has distracted you, it is important to realize that you cannot journey to a new place and at the same time stay where you are. Walking with God demands that we bring order to our lives and put first things first. Sometimes it is just as important to know what you are journeying away from as it is to know what you are journeying toward.
The journey toward the-best-version-of-yourself is a journey away from the defects of the-present-version-of-yourself. Every day I find myself doing things that are self-destructive and that make me a lesser person. I say things that hurt others, or I hurt others by not saying things. These are the thoughts, words, and actions that deviate from the natural order and separate me from the peace of knowing I am contributing positively to the common good of the unfolding universe. I find myself experiencing what Paul described: “The good that I would I do not, and the evil that I would not it is that which I do” (Romans 7:19).
We are all imperfect but perfectible. The Church holds us in our weakness, comforts us in our limitations, endeavors to heal us of our sickness, and nurtures us back to health, making us whole again. And throughout this process, the Church manages to harness all our efforts and struggles, not only for our own good but for the good of the entire Church—indeed, for all humanity.
Can I honestly examine the sins and shortcomings that keep me from being the-best-version-of-myself ? Am I willing to be more attentive to what God is calling me to be?
God of humility and truth, hear my prayer this Lenten season. Point me toward the path that leads to you. Help me to get to know myself better, so that I may know how to improve and ultimately become the-best-version-of-myself for you. Amen.
Your weakness are the key to the unimaginable bigger future that God has envisioned for you.