Man, 2020 is really flying by. Am I the only one who feels like Christmas was yesterday? This is wild! But Lent is here, whether we realize it or not. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, prayer, and penance. Lent can be a bit overwhelming for Catholics, as we're inundated with devotionals, suggestions, ideas, and programs to encourage spiritual awakening. That's why I love our parish theme for Lent this year: #pickonething!
I spent this past weekend in State College, Pennsylvania. While I was there, I attended mass at Our Lady of Victory Church, and the homily really stuck with me. The priest was talking about how Lent was fast approaching, and he kind of called the congregation out! I sometimes like when priests make us a bit uncomfortable during their homilies, because it's really easy to get complacent and "cozy" in our faith. But Christ Himself told us that it wasn't going to be a cakewalk!
Heck, just look at the 12 Apostles. Do you know how many of them died from natural causes? ONE (it was John, in case you're wondering)! The rest were martyred, many in cruel and painful ways. That's not necessarily what we should expect, but the point is that Catholicism and discipleship are not just there to make us "feel good." In fact, they often do just the opposite! This is the point that the priest in Pennsylvania was trying to make.
He spoke about "efficiency." His basic point was that while most of us would be THRILLED at reaching 99% efficiency in our jobs and daily lives, there are many companies that would fall apart at 99% efficiency. For example, what if 99% of babies born in hospitals were sent home with their correct parents? Or 99% of patients were given the correct prescriptions? Or if we obeyed 99% of red lights while driving? The point is, 99% often isn't good enough.
So if even 99% isn't always good enough, why do we settle for 75% Catholicism? Trust me, I've done this before. "I know I need to work on this one thing, but I'm good in all these other areas, so God will let it slide, right?" WRONG! God doesn't ask us to be 50% or 75% or even 99% devoted to Him. He wants ALL of us, and Lent is the perfect time to put that into action.
The priest said one more thing that I think bears hearing. He took this concept of efficiency and percentages and applied it to Lenten sacrifices. I'm going to quote him as best as I can remember here, because he said it much better than I can: "It's easy to say we're going to give up chocolate or sweets or donuts for Lent. But you know what? God doesn't need your chocolate! What's He going to do with it?" God wants us to make REAL CHANGE during Lent and to actively draw nearer to Him.
This is why I love our parish theme for Lent so much. It's a call not to pick something insignificant or easy as a "token sacrifice," but to #pickonething that's keeping us from God and work on it. We ALL have something. Something that keeps us at 75% faith, something that stands between us and God, something that's always holding us back. You don't have to share this with anyone; it's between you and God! Nobody else. But I would encourage you to think on your one thing and how you can work on it this Lent.
At the end of the day, Lent (like all things) is a gift from God. He gives us this time of fasting, reflection, and discernment as an opportunity to close the gap between us and our Father, the gap that we widen each time we sin. God's mercy is endless, and He wants nothing more than to draw you into His loving arms this Lent. I bet that if you #pickonething and really work on it, you'll feel a heck of a lot better at the end of these 40 days. Because we always feel better when we run into the Father's arms.
Wishing you a blessed Lent,