This Joyful Season of Lent
Published on March 12-13, 2011 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Most Catholics I know are Christmas and Easter people; they love the joy to the world that Christmas brings and the triumphant gladness that Easter promises. And who can blame them? Those are the seasons when the sanctuary is decorated with poinsettias and lilies, when the Glorias and Alleluias are sung with fervor, when the finest live music rings loud and clear not in concert halls but in the nave of even the smallest Church, when we are reunited with so many of those whom we haven’t seen in all the other Sundays. Most Catholics are Christmas and Easter people because it is on those high holy days that we see the Body of Christ as it should be: one in faith and hope, one in prayer and song.
But, unlike most Catholics, I am more of a Lenten kind of guy. I much prefer Lent over the other liturgical seasons not because I enjoy all of its reminders of sin and guilt or because I savor the Savior’s pain and suffering and the Sorrowful Mother’s tears. There is a glory in these forty days that often eludes us because we are too busy focusing only on what we have done and what we have failed to do (cf. Confiteor). In fact, the Church Herself refers to Lent not as a season of sadness and shame but as a joyful season given to us by God each year (cf. Preface of Lent I). Lent is a joyful season because instead of letting us wallow in regret the Lord offers us reconciliation, instead of letting us stick to our tired, old ways the Lord moves us to be renewed. I am a Lenten kind of guy because I find in this season forty days full of possibilities for holiness in a world that often dismisses holiness as something altogether impossible. And each day of this joyful season of possibilities comes from the Lord with whom all things are possible (Mt. 19:26).
There is another reason why I find Lent to be a joyful season. As a pastor and confessor, I see firsthand how the faithful truly become full of faith during these forty days. There is something about the approach of Easter that awakens within us an oft hidden grace that draws us back to the arms of our God. I believe that this is a grace that comes with our baptism, and it urges us to recall the promises of that same baptism, promises that are forgotten or ignored throughout the year. It is almost an instinct for an annual spring cleaning of our souls, an urge to get our dirty laundry washed because somehow we realize deep down inside that we need our souls to be lily-white when we renew our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. This is what I find so powerful and joyful about Lent: that no matter how far away we may have strayed, the Lord tugs us so gently yet so surely back home to His embrace.