Lent is a time of penance and prayer, a time to examine your collective consciousness to see if you are on the right track or not. Lent is also a time to reflect on how you increase your capacity to love Christ by loving your neighbor as yourself.
If your true self tries to move towards the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, then the false self pulls each of us towards the seven deadly sins. If you think life is a struggle to pull against Original sin, you would be correct in my estimation. Some have even characterized this titanic struggle between good and evil as a war against Satan.
Sin plays a significant part of the struggle we all face as a result of the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. Christ came to remove that sin through Baptism but it does not diminish the effects of Original Sin. Faith can be gained through humility and obedience to God’s will but it can easily be lost to pride and the other deadly sins if we are not careful. It is not without some significance that Christ bid us take up our cross daily and follow Him.
Sin, according to this way of thinking is not just one action that we commit, but more of a mindset that says “We are God.” When we receive the Sacrament of Penance in many cases, we do so without having committed any serious or mortal sins. What we confess is our lack of Faith to love God with all our hearts and minds and strength. What we ask is the grace to make all things new in our hearts.
MISSING THE TARGET
Sin is an archer who aims for the target bullseye but misses it slightly or even completely. I use the Rule of St. Benedict, especially Chapter 4 as an examination of conscience, as the basis for my moral behavior. When I pray this Chapter 4 each day, my prayer is always that I become what I read. I am in the process of moving from my old self to my new self. Some days are better than others. This is my target in life, to move from self to God. I find it interesting that I must begin the struggle each day anew. Each day is sufficient unto itself.
A mistake would be to think of my spiritual behavior in terms of not committing sin. Rather, I should focus on loving God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength and my neighbor as myself. Avoidance of sin is not the center of my life, but rather how to love others as Christ loves us. Christ died for each of us, not because we are evil or corrupt persons, but to give us an inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
SIN IS LIVING IN TWO UNIVERSES AND NOT THREE
It takes energy to live in three universes and not just two. That energy comes from God. That energy is God’s own life. Christ gives us the template when he became one of us. He chose to live in the world of Original Sin (two universes) to show us how to live in three universes. In many ways, it is just the opposite of the World, a sign of contradiction, Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict reminds monks (and all of us) that Lent is a year-long struggle. It should be a special time liturgically to prepare our hearts once more to live the Life of Christ by appreciating the Resurrection. I can’t convert my life from my old self to my new self if I live in two universes. Galatians Chapter 5 points out this dichotomy by framing our living as coming from the flesh (two universes) or the Spirit (three universes).
LEARNING AND DISCUSSION POINTS
Don’t fall into the trap of just doing “something” for Lent without it changing the way you live. Conversion of heart takes energy, God’s energy, not yours.
Place yourself in the presence of God and not vice versa. Lent is a time of intensive love where we long to expand our capacity to receive God in our hearts.
Lent is a time to choose love over sin. As a Lay Cistercian I find that I must fast and pray that I do not enter into temptation. I can’t do that in two universes, but only in three.
Lent is a time when I re-center myself on my personal purpose in life, “to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5-12.