Friday, March 11, 2011
Scripture Saturday--The Wisdom of Lent
Facing our faults and making amends for them will cure us of the suppressed hatred that we often turn on ourselves in the form of depression, anger and mistreatment. Truly digging deep, truly going after our most entrenched sins takes time, but is well worth the freedom that results.
We cannot confess our sins, in whatever form that may take, without facing them squarely. This is often awkward and painful. But, Lent is not meant to make us hang on to our sins in an obsessive way. Once we face them, we confess them, make amends and move on.
A modern example of this is the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. In Step 4, we make a "searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." That is what Lent calls us to do.
Step 5 asks us to "admit to God, ourselves and another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs." I'm amazed at how Catholic this is. Yes, God knows our sins. But, we need to say, out loud, to another human being "the exact nature of our wrongs." It is too easy otherwise, to make excuses and rationalize why we need this unhealthy behavior to continue.
In Step 6, we should be "entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character." It won't happen until we are ready. It won't happen until we swallow our pride and admit to God that we need His help.
Step 7 says that we should "humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings." This brings to mind the Act of Contrition that we are asked to say after confessing our sins. We talk directly to God and let Him know we are truly sorry and with His help, we won't put ourselves in sin-inducing situations again.
In Step 8, we "make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all." Notice we have not yet made amends to anyone. This is a process that is done little by little. Perhaps having a 40 day penitential season makes sense!
In Step 9, we make direct amends except where it would injure someone. This doesn't take place until the 9th step. Also, our spirituality is not so rule-based that we are required to injure another in order to "cure" ourselves. We are always other-focused because all are children of God.
Step 10 reminds us to continue to take inventory and to make amends. This is a journey. Lent is often compared to Christ's journey in the desert, which was also 40 days, where He was tempted by Satan. We are on a life-long journey to deification--becoming like God.
Becoming holy is a life time process. The wisdom of the Church's Lenten season has been recognized by the 12 step programs across the world and continues to change people's lives today.