by Fr. Martin Day, OFM Conv.
Three quarters of this year’s Lenten season has already passed us by. Where are we at this point in our Lenten journey? It could be an occasion for us to “buckle down” and give a final push to our Lenten resolutions. Perhaps we can still make it! Or we might be at the point of thinking that we were a bit too ambitious when Lent began and, at this point in the penitential season, we might be confronted with the reality that what we said we were going to do has become a mathematical impossibility. This latter case might apply, for example, if we thought that, somehow, our Lenten fasting would lead to a reduction in waist size.
I would like to suggest another option: Perhaps it is best if we “let go” of Lent.
Lent is designed to prepare our hearts to celebrate the feast of our salvation. The first step in the process is to come to a deeper realization that the salvation being celebrated actually applies to us! Lent helps us get past the notion that we can save ourselves—if we are good enough then God will have to let us into heaven.
The most successful Lent could be the one where we come face to face with our inability to measure up on our own to the demands of the Gospel.
At this point in the season, however, the focus shifts. Whatever has happened, or not happened during this Lenten season now has to give way to the actual celebration of salvation. We have now to relinquish the center stage, which we had previously occupied with attentiveness to our prayer life, our almsgiving, our fasting and abstinence, to the work that Christ has done through his sacrifice on the cross, and the work that is continuing through the power of the Holy Spirit still at work in the world.
These realities will always be the main event, even if we feel much more in touch with our response to them, however lacking it may be.
To let go of Lent means to forget ourselves for a moment and revel in the simple fact that God has seen fit to save us, without there being any other reason to do so other than the fact that he loves us, and wants us to fulfill the purpose for which we were made—to rejoice in the life prepared for us from the foundation of the world.
Would that it were true that we were worthy of so great a gift. But the good news of salvation is that the gift is ours even though we are not worthy of it. We can only be in awe of that. And in our awe Lenten resolutions fall away. There is much more important work at hand—to celebrate the mystery of God’s redeeming love.