21st February 2012

Facing our struggles this lent

We have to face it, in more ways than one we all experience many struggles. The word can be understood in its various nuances but these are the ones that come to mind: a conflict, a difficulty in moving forward, an attempt to gain freedom by overcoming resistance.

Think first of the ordinary struggles we face everyday: to get up in the morning, to be punctual, to complete an assignment or to stick to my diet. But what should come to us as no surprise (but sometimes does) is that we have many internal struggles which given the choice we would actually do away with. We may even feel that it is unfair that our hearts have to battle with negative reactions, fear and insecurity compounded by all ‘those people’ around us which make them worse.

And as if all that is not enough who of us can claim to be exempt from the struggle with temptation that St Paul so aptly describes for us in his letter to the Romans: For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Rom. 7:18-19. Anger, jealousy, untruthfulness, lust, envy and the list can go on.

The proud and sinful nature we inherited with the compliments of Adam and Eve and the devil’s deceitful promises and lies are relentless foes. Indeed the Catechism leaves us with no doubt about this: The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity (CCC 409).

But there is Good News. There is one Man who entered this arena and won an amazing victory. He was tempted but never sinned (Heb 4:15), He was exposed big time to the devil’s lies and schemes but did not succumb (Matt 4:1-11). Jesus, the Son of God, triumphed over sin, evil, the devil and death. The power of His Resurrection Life is available to us. It really is. But how do we make it our own?

First of all it a case of choosing sides, not once but daily. Lent is all about conversion, making sure that I am living in the Father’s ’embrace of grace.’ (Luke 15:11-32). Yet repentance needs to be ongoing because God wants me to grow in holiness. So daily prayer, fasting and the Eucharist help me draw closer to Jesus and to be slowly but surely, transformed by His grace, Our ‘no’ to selfishness by acts of self-denial is to say ‘yes’ to God’s Love and to authentically love all those around us.

At the end of the day a lot is at stake. Our real peace, true happiness and unique mission can all be derailed in this life if we are not careful to cultivate a disciplined interior spiritual life. Let us take heart: our struggle will one day come to an end and the Bible says that we will then enter our eternal rest (Heb 4;11). However this is possible only if we persevere to the end. Lent which leads to the joy of Easter is an invitation to experience what Jesus says:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Matt. 16:24

Unspeakable joy awaits us.