To Sin No More, A Lenten Reflection
In general, when folks talk about giving up something for Lent, it tends to be a vice or vanity. The television goes off in our house, as do the game systems. We become more mindful of our sweets. And this is when my parent’s home becomes particularly popular – they do not come from a faith tradition that observes the Lenten liturgical season, and so we allow the kids to take a Lenten reprieve when there.
In Lenten seasons past, I tried to set aside more time for prayer and meditation – time to draw closer to God. And I probably should have done the same again this year. Time is at more of a premium these days than it ever has been before – regular prayer time being limited to meals, boyhood bedtime, and Mass – and setting aside that time would have meant all the more. But I decided against it, looking instead to improve on some inner-discipline. Part of me has guilt – I’ve backslidden in my spirituality! – and part of me shrugs and says I’m just at a different place in life than I was in years past. The latter is certainly true. The former … I’m always ready to believe that’s true if someone wants to deliver a spiritual 2×4 to the back of my head to make the point.
This year I identified a sin in my life that has been a particular plague upon my soul, and I decided I would suffer it no more except through perseverance. And so, after talking with my wife, that is what I set out to do.
I wonder what Jesus had in mind when he said, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” Perseverance in goodness does not at all feel that way. And the perseverance itself begs questions of the whole experience – why this moment of hell? Why not end it by giving over and getting on with more important and interesting matters? What good fruit comes from this mortification? What is the end of this mean estate that I suffer?
Honestly, I don’t know that there’s a satisfying answer. All there is … is that I believe in Jesus. And Jesus suffered all to conquer all so that I might join with Him in all that I am and to share all that He has attained. And so, I give myself over to the good so that Jesus prevails in me and I in Him.
But that isn’t satisfying. It is poetic. It is beautiful. But my sin speaks so much more eloquently to me. “Take, revel, and return when you want more.” The Lord’s Supper isn’t so hedonistic. “Take and eat. Take and drink. Do this in memory of me.” He didn’t ask to be laid aside until we approach His table again. And growing up in a culture where the former is supreme and the latter is viewed as a form of insanity … it makes holding to the latter in fullness and earnestness difficult.
I’m glad to say that I fared fairly well, though admittedly not perfectly. And my precious wife has bore with my struggling – and at times irritable – spirit with the grace and love that called me to marry her. As for TV and games and sweets – we probably did the worst there. First of all because we didn’t do it as a family. I wasn’t willing to give up TV this Lent. I’m a jerk. And the kids would have gone nuts if they lost both TV and sweets. I think next year, though, we will give it up as a family. We should bear our children’s burdens if we are going to place it on them. It’s wrong to do otherwise. And, for giving up the TV, we still did a lot of TV viewing this year – it’s just really hard with 3 boys to keep them from killing each other when trying to clean, pay bills, budget, cook, etc etc etc.
During my Lenten Reconciliation, I confessed my sin, the struggles surrounding my sin, my desire to do away with it. And for now, while I cannot escape the near occasion of this sin, I feel cleansed of it – a first in a very long time.
I confess to Almighty God
And to you, my brothers and sisters,
That I have sinned of my own fault:
in my thoughts and in my words;
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do.
And I ask blessed Mary, ever Virgin,
All the Angels and Saints,
And you, my brothers and sisters,
To pray for me to the Lord, Our God. Amen
Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee,
and I detest all my sin because of thy just judgment,
but most of all because they offend thee, my God,
Who art all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to sin no more
and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.