Does it seem like Lent already has started? In the air, that feeling. Perhaps it’s the “coming down” from various peaks in the pandemic. Perhaps it’s the tension over various worldly issues — inflation, politics, Ukraine.
Whatever the genesis, it’s an excellent time to prepare for Lent — setting a stage for the deepest, holiest, most cleansing, most eternally valuable such season we’ve had. The suggestion from here: go for it. Sackcloth. Ashes.
And here the Holy Spirit, along with reading the Bible, come into sharp relief — vehicles for flushing out what needs to be flushed out, fixing what’s broken or cracked, mending wounds, illuminating the inner self, and reversing negative trends in the spirit.
One of the best fasts is just that: restraining from bad habits, which places a new course of life in motion during the precious forty Lenten days (actually, forty-five).
There’s no magical formula; we have to work at cleansing. We have to work at expelling wrong inclination. We have to labor to purify. When there are weeds in the garden, you don’t just wish them away. You pull them out.
It is a sacrament meant to offer exactly this help.
As Scott Randall Paine says in a new book, The Other World We Live In, “There is no more efficacious protection against any demon than a clean, shining conscience. This power of ours stretches itself in the sun of Grace like a spiritual antenna capable of picking up the highest whispered warnings of our guardian angel.
“Now to keep this antenna fully extended, no hours of ascetic effort can match the efficacy of one thoroughly honest and thus thoroughly humble Confession. Here let us note that the joint force of Confession and Communion sets in motion an intensity of spiritual growth that, together with maturation in the virtues, makes our spiritual immune system virtually impenetrable.”
How’s that for good news (at a time when it is significantly needed)? Confession: the spiritual vaccine.
And so: get ready for Lent! Let it be the best one ever.
Do you hear folks making fun of others? Turn them off. Do you hear them besmirching a person? Close thy ears. Do you feel the radiation of dislike? Shield your soul, your spirit. Lying words? Erase them. Be a good listener to what is good.
“Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” says James 1:19-22. “For a man’s anger does not fulfill God’s Justice. Strip away all that is filthy, every vicious excess. Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. Act on this word. If all you do is listen, you are deceiving yourself.”
Take in only that which cleanses.
Close the window of your spirit to the grit of a fallen world.