“I am afraid that many of you have never really met Jesus one on one as a friend and don’t know him and his love for you, the love that will change your whole life forever.”
Those are not my words. They are the words of Saint Mother Teresa. She said them to the sisters in her community who had already made a decision to leave everything behind. Saint Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, live a radical life of poverty. They sleep on the floor. They have one dress that they wear. They don’t really own anything. They live to give themselves to people in all sorts of really difficult circumstances, and yet Mother Teresa said those words to her community. As we start this great season, Mother Teresa’s words come to mind. I am afraid that they are true for a lot of us in the Church today.
This past Wednesday we began the season of Lent, but I am afraid that it is so misunderstood by so many people. If we don’t get Lent right and we don’t get Easter right, then to be a Christian is to just follow a bunch of rules. What is Lent all about then? For myself, Lent for years was focused on me. What was I going to do? It became something like a self-help plan. We may have looked to Lent to see how good we can be in this season and what we could give up or what charity we could give to. But that is not what Lent is about. Lent is all about what God has done for us. It is a long preparation for the greatest week of the year: Holy Week. The greatest event to ever happen in the world happened on Good Friday, where He offered up his life, so that you and I can live.
Lent is a time for us to focus on Him and respond to Him by how we lovingly treat others. The readings on Ash Wednesday warn us not to make these 40 days external observances. They can easily become some sort of a check list for us, “Yep, did that and gave up this.” Lent is supposed to be a time of preparation for Holy Week and Easter, a time where we can say back to Saint Mother Teresa, “You are wrong, I have met Him and I do know Him. I know the cross did not happen for us, but He died for ME because that is Lent. This is the goal.” By the time we get to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, hopefully we can say I understand Jesus better and why He did what he did for me. Because I know him better now, I want to live my life for Him. I want to be different. I want to be great. I want to be heroic. I want to be Good. I want to be Holy. I want to give my life to others. I want all of these things because I have come to know Him as the greatest of friends.
This Lent think about why we are doing what we are doing in Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. Are we doing these things to check the box or are we doing these things to get to know Our Lord and Savior better? My prayer for you, and please pray for me, is that we fight to choose the latter, where we come to understand more His passion, death and resurrection, that we come to know His Awesome Love and respond to others in same way!