Here we are at the start of Holy Week, the last days of Lent in this Year of Faith.
I admit before this week started, I was feeling somewhat thwarted in my Lenten efforts. Normally I embrace giving up sweets and stop really missing dessert after the first week or so. This year? Not so much. Even with celebrating a “little Easter” each Sunday and having a single treat, I am very much looking forward to more frequent chocolate consumption after this weekend. Maybe not the wisest move for a nursing mom with a toddler, in a season that hasn’t looked much like spring.
Another major Lenten practice for me this year was an attempt to speed up my reading of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I’d never read it in full before, and started reading it last year at the start of the church’s Year of Faith.
John started to read it after I did, but more regularly. I couldn’t stand the idea of getting ahead (there’s something about him that makes others fiercely competitive—just watch him and his siblings compete in Pictionary, bowling, Wii Sports, SAT scores . . .), and doing a little math, discovered that I could finish the whole thing if I doubled my daily page count throughout Lent. This meant about forty minutes of reading every day—pretty much every minute of the chunk of time I have to myself in the middle of the day. And reading theology to boot.
It would be a sacrifice, for sure, so I went for it. As the weeks went by, I struggled more and more to keep up. Yes, I wanted to sacrifice time for God, but I had also made other goals for myself in the months of February and March, mostly regarding my novel and being ready to get back to my freelance work in April, goals that I had set months before. In retrospect, I didn’t consider all the aspects of sacrificing this particular space of time and whether it was really the best way to find peace in the season.
Eventually, when I did sit down to read, I was counting the pages, trying to plow through, not really getting anything out of it. In the last week or so, I had too many days when I didn’t read at all, and got so far behind that I couldn’t keep up and make the other deadlines I’d set for myself.
Those few days away, though disappointing, taught me the lessons I needed to learn this Lent.
First of all, a sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice is not worthwhile. Add in wanting to beat John and finish all 700-plus pages before him, and I wasn’t exactly on a path to spiritual renewal.
Secondly, and more importantly, I can only really accept God’s mercy when I can see my weaknesses. The parts of the Catechism I have paid attention to, as well as other blogs and articles on the sacrament of confession I’ve read these last six weeks, have shown me in a very personal, interior way that this is why we say our sins out loud in the confessional. We admit to our faults not to shame ourselves or build up guilt, but to recognize the holes in our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls that God wants to fill with His love.
I’ve resumed my reading, but at a slower pace than I started. It feels more manageable without that silly pressure on myself. God doesn’t care when I finish; He cares that I hear His word and live by it to the best of my ability—accepting His help along the way, of course.
This quote from a blog post I read yesterday sums it up perfectly:
“Lent is a time for slow growth, for honest self-reflection, for deepening our relationship with God. It’s not a time to feel lousy about ourselves for not doing enough.”
Amen! And a blessed Holy Week!