How to Recover After a Disappointing Lent

We’re now in the middle of the Easter Octave and Lent 2017 is in the history books.  Maybe you didn’t have the most spiritual Lent this year.  Maybe you didn’t give something up or cheated a bit.  Maybe you didn’t receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, didn’t fast, or didn’t commit yourself to prayer.  Some of you may not have acted any differently during Lent than any other time of the year.

In the wake of a disappointing Lenten season, it’s easy to throw your hands into the air and say, “well, better luck next year.  That’s when I’ll really take Lent seriously.”  With that attitude, you basically turn Lent into some sort of spiritual open enrollment period where, if you miss it, you have to wait an entire year before you can make changes to your spiritual behavior.  Granted, I haven’t read the entire Bible (yet) but I don’t think God specified a time window on when you can convert and invest in a deeper relationship with Him.

I also hope there isn’t a three month wait list to receive God’s grace.

What can you do now that Lent is over?  Easter is a celebration that lasts for 50 days.  What better way to celebrate than committing yourself to increased prayer, fasting, and receiving the sacraments.  Like Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast, we want to come dressed to this glorious Easter celebration “dressed” appropriately.  That means with a soul cleansed of sin and a humble spirit of conversion.  Sure, we may not have used all 40 days of Lent to adequately prepare, but getting prepared now and arriving a little late to the party is better than missing the party completely.  Better late than never, right?

On the flip side, maybe you had a great Lent which is turning into a great Easter.  And while we may ease up a bit on the fasting and sacrifice, we shouldn’t do a complete 180 and undo those gains by sinning, not praying, and ignoring our faith.  Hopefully, what you did during Lent will have a lasting impression.  For example, I gave up snacking for Lent.  But just because Lent is over, it doesn’t mean I’m going to become a glutton (although I may have gone overboard on the donuts last Sunday).  While I may not be as steadfast as I was during Lent, I think I will continue to abstain from snacking at least two days a week.

Remember, it will all still be there tomorrow. Stay strong and resist temptation.

After Jesus’ death, many people thought they could back to their “old” lives and basically wrote off Jesus as someone who had some interesting ideas but died tragically.  Saint Peter momentarily went back to fishing.  Jesus’ disciples started leaving Jerusalem to pick up where they left off.  We too may have that feeling that now that Easter Sunday has passed, it’s time we return to our “normal” lives.  But Jesus’ resurrection actually created a new normal and permanently altered human kind‘s relationship with God.  Similarly, each Lent and Easter, we should be creating a new normal for ourselves as well; always pushing ourselves to form a deeper relationship with God.  Let’s not make the same mistake Jesus’ disciples made treating Jesus as a passing fad.  Instead, prolong the spirit of the Resurrection and make your relationship with Him something you work on every day for the rest of your life.

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Easter Sunday — Joy

Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene
Image via Wikipedia

The Easter Gospel is either from John 20:1-9 or Matthew 28:1-10.  Both talk about how Mary Magdalene came to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty for He had risen.  Naturally this Gospel relates to the First Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Resurrection.  Realizing the sorrow of Jesus’s passion and death only makes His resurrection that much more joyful.  For while Jesus’ earthly life ended in great suffering and sorrow He rose to His eternal, heavenly life in glory.  We too should remember that in our greatest sorrows and suffering we are called to one day rise to new life in the eternal joy of God’s heavenly kingdom.

Everyone have a happy and blessed Easter!

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Gospel for April 10, 2011 — Eternity

Raising of Lazarus by Jesus
Image via Wikipedia

The Gospel for April 10, 2011 is John 11:1-45. In this Gospel, Jesus performs the miracle of raising His friend, Lazarus, from the dead.  This Gospel foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection which we pray in the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary.  Both this rosary mystery and the Gospel remind us that there is more to our existence than this earthly life.  God’s divine plan for all of us does not end with the death of our physical bodies.  His plan also includes our souls living for all eternity in His heavenly kingdom.

News flash, we all have a terminal illness.  I do not want to be a downer, but we all had this illness from the we were conceived.  Our terminal condition is our earthly existence.  No one will physically live forever.  But we should not despair as Jesus said this in the Gospel:

This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.

While Jesus was referring to Lazarus, He might as well have spoken about the human condition and our mortality.  None of our lives will end in death if we define death to be a transition to nothingness.  Instead our souls will live for all eternity.  We should recognize that reality and adjust our lives by avoiding sin and doing good works.

In addition to our final, physical death we also encounter little deaths throughout our lives.  I refer to the death of our relationship with God when we commit mortal sin.  When we sever ourselves from God’s grace our soul experiences a type of spiritual death.  However, like how Jesus physically raised Lazarus from the dead, the Holy Spirit raises our soul from its death through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Our return to God’s grace is just as miraculous, and I would say vastly more important, as if Jesus raised us physically from the dead as He did with Lazarus.  Especially in this period of Lent, it is so critically important to do a little spiritual spring cleaning of our souls and go to confession.  We all should experience the miracle of God rising our souls from their spiritual sleep.  And we must pray for all those in this world who are spiritually dead through sin that they have the courage and humility to return to God’s grace.

In this Gospel reading Lazarus’ rise from the dead foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection.  We remember Jesus’ resurrection in the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary.  One of the central themes of this mystery is that our physical death is not the end of us.  Rather, it is just the beginning of a new life either in Heaven or in Hell.  I believe that our spiritual life is actually our real life as it is eternal.  Our life here on earth, even if we live one hundred or more years, is nothing compared to eternity.  So which existence is really the one where we live as our true self?  Our current, temporary, and imperfect life or the eternal existence in the afterlife?  When we pray the rosary, think about this Gospel, and meditate on Jesus’ resurrection may we remember to make the most of this short time we have in this life by being a testament to the glory of God.  God desires all of us to be with Him in Heaven.  Through Jesus’ resurrection, He showed us that there is so much more to our existence than what we experience in this world.  Let us not become so obsessed and consumed by all the material wants of this life as they will all one day disappear.  Instead, we  should pray that we can endure and reject the temptations of this world and live for the greater goal of an eternity of joy and happiness in Heaven.

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