By Rev. Thierry de Roucy, Heart’s Home Founder
Every year, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday brings us back to the truth of our fate: “You are dust and unto dust you shall return.”
And every year, as we hear this, we say, “This time, I cannot excuse myself from ‘converting and believing in the Gospel.’ I must banish from my life all that which is not consistent with what I hold holiness to be like: those sarcastic remarks, these few lies, those malicious judgments, these too many glasses of whiskey, these unnecessary cigarettes... All of this must vanish. This will be my Lenten aim.” Thus I pretend to believe that it is my will which will quickly resolve these problems.
The second or third Sunday of Lent arrives. And I must make an initial appraisal: the anxiety at the mere thought of having to quit smoking has never pushed me so much towards cigarettes and I compensate for the lack of a few glasses of whiskey with an intensifying aggression. In short, this Lent – just like the previous ones, in fact – is turning into a disaster. I have never had such a negative idea about myself; I have never felt so incapable of sacrifices, of renunciations, even of religion.
Then, I have to make a choice. I can either turn the page of Lenten efforts and permanently give up any religious practices or I can try to understand this inability and to grow in what appears to be a failure.
In fact, this time is given to us, as the prayer of the first Sunday of Lent states, to “grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ” and, curiously, it seems that we get to know Him better when we discover the vastness of our weakness than when we realize that we are quite capable of asceticism and we are perfectly able to fulfill our resolutions. If the latter is the case, the risk is that we end up encountering only our own selves and our pseudo-perfection and thus let pride infiltrate us. That would be a curious fruit for our Lenten time! If the first is the case, becoming aware of our poverty disposes us to welcome – only if we want to and we dare not dwell on our infirmities – the presence of the Savior, the salvation won by Him who died and rose for us and whose love we celebrate in a very special way during the Easter Triduum.
In short, our inability to hold, in spite of ourselves, our Lenten resolutions can be a blessing; it opens us to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and lets us experience what He is to us: Mercy!