• February 19, 2013

A Time of Impoverishment and Discovery

Palito, a friend
of Heart’s Home
in Buenos Aires

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!

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