Dear Friends in Christ:
Our Lenten journey has begun. We are to spend these forty days in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Or at least that is the idea. But do we? Is our Lent really a season of penance and sacrifice? So much in our busy, hectic world is geared and directed to making things easy and convenient that we can easily lose sight of the notion and the importance and necessity of penance and sacrifice. In fact, a great deal of our culture is aimed at eradicating inconvenience, hardship, penance and sacrifice. Back in the 70’s, Eric Segal wrote in his novel, Love Story, the famous line “Love means never having to say you are sorry”. Tragically this popular quote ditty is totally false and even more tragically people don’t know that it is false and are still believing that we can live without penance and contrition. Throughout our lives, easier, faster and simpler are what we so often look for, not to mention cheaper. While those attributes may be great in many of our everyday dealings, they are not necessarily good for our relationship with God (or our spouse or families or friends). With God there is no cheap grace. Virtue and holiness cannot be had without penance and sacrifice.
To be a saint is counter cultural and it always has been.
During Lent, we have the opportunity to slow down, be quiet, concentrate and reflect. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are practices to help us in our journey. These take effort and time. There are no short cuts. As we slow down and reflect, as we pray and fast, we realize that God has a plan for our life. The goal of His plan is our ultimate and perfect happiness, but God’s plan does not occur immediately or instantaneously in our lives, nor does God work his plan without our cooperation and participation.
Recently, I read a book entitled The Biggest Lie In The History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly. It is a quick and easy little book. Kelly’s point is that the biggest lie that many Christians believe is that holiness is not possible for us. I think he is really on to something far more profound than his little book may reflect. Too many of us think that true, authentic holiness can only be achieved by maybe a few exceptional saints, but not by us. And because we believe this “lie,” we settle for something less and don’t even try. We set our sights too low. We aim for being “good” or “nice” or “not too bad” or for that wonderful low bar of moral and ethical standards “I have never killed anyone”. Why? Because deep down, we don’t think we really can be holy. Well, we are right if we think we have to achieve holiness all by ourselves. Fortunately, that is not the case. We do not have to achieve holiness by ourselves. That is why God sent his only Son into the world. That is why Jesus lived, preached, cured, performed miracles, suffered, died, was buried, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus gave us the Church and the Sacraments.
With God and His grace to help us, we really can be holy! No lie! And a life of holiness is far better and more fulfilling than everything below it. Happiness and holiness is God’s plan for us! Aim high! There is no cheap grace!
Have a holy Lent and remember to come to Mass, Stations of the Cross and confession!
In pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately