I was moved deeply by today’s psalm…
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted”
Lent is a penitential season – a season for us to grow in self-awareness, to look inward and acknowledge our sins and weaknesses. It is a blessing to be reminded to reflect in this way, especially as we are called simultaneously to be drawing near to Christ’s Passion, reminding us to do this in the presence of the Lord. Facing our weakness and sin without being immersed in God’s mercy and grace can be detrimental. In our self-reflection, guilt will likely come up and this is a wonderful thing inasmuch as it draws us to contrition, confession, God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness and freedom. If we have confessed, we must trust God’s forgiveness and allow ourselves to receive that mercy and blessing. Though at times, guilt, rather than being constructive and leading us to God, can be destructive. At times it may tempt us toward focusing and dwelling so much on ourselves and our sin that, instead of drawing us to God’s grace, it draws us further away from Him as we dwell on our failure, our weakness, our inability, our hurt pride, or our disappointment. Did you notice a pattern there? Note the emphasis on ourselves. This way of thinking is subtly undermining God’s power and revealing that we may be trying to achieve holiness in our own power. Now, we mustn’t fall into even more destructive guilt upon realizing this, but ask God for forgiveness, trust in His mercy, and be led to dwell on the awe-someness of His power. We can’t achieve holiness in our own power – it is only in humbling ourselves, receiving His power and His divine life within us.
This is the goal of a penitential season – to increase our self-awareness of our weakness, not so we may dwell in it, wallow in it, and so be led further into a self-centered mindset, but to understand our weakness and so empty ourselves to allow Christ more fully in. To feel true sorrow for our sins and weakness so we understand better the Lord’s love for us and be drawn more fully into it. Receiving the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist are beautiful and integral ways of encountering God’s grace during this time, in addition to personal Lenten commitments (personal prayer, fasting, almsgiving). (NOTE: if you haven’t been keeping up with your Lenten commitments very well, don’t wallow! I’m right there with you. Let’s ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and strength in these last couple weeks. He wants you to draw close to Him. It’s not too late to have a beautiful Lent!)
The key is to approach this time in close proximity to the Lord and His grace. He is close to the broken-hearted. As sins and weaknesses are revealed to you this Lent, even throughout the day, immediately invite the Lord into those places. As you reflect, keep Him close. The Lord desires a truly contrite and sorrowful heart, and wants to bring His mercy into that heart – in fact, when He is invited in, he can’t help but rush in. Love and mercy are who He is. In his Confessions, St. Augustine writes to God that he is recalling his “most wicked ways and thinking over the past with bitterness so that you may grow ever sweeter to me” (2.1.1, emphasis mine). It is my prayer that our Lent does not draw us further into our guilty selves, leaving us feeling self-pity or disappointment or with a hurt pride, but that it draws us ever more deeply into the sweetness of God. As we are emptied out and His love pours in, He will heal us and lead us into deeper freedom. We cannot do it. It is only in His grace.
Thank you, Lord, for your inexhaustible love and mercy! Thank you that self-awareness may help us know your sweetness all the more. Lord, we invite you into our hearts now and throughout this season of Lent. Draw us close to your heart. We come to you with hearts sorry for our sins and we ask your forgiveness. Help us to see ourselves the way you see us, most loving Father. We surrender and consecrate the remaining days of Lent to you in gratitude for this beautiful season. In the precious name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.