Wrapping Up Lent, Making Ready for Easter
I don’t know about you, but Lent seems to be the longest of the Church’s liturgical seasons—probably because it’s the only season that puts real demands on us. Catholics work hard during Lent (more about “working Lent” in a moment)!
We’re helping to “make” new Christians. The “catechumens,” called “the elect” after the First Sunday of Lent when these candidates for Baptism were “elected” and approved for the Easter Sacraments, are in their final days of preparation. Parish formation teams for the rite of initiation for adults (the RCIA) are now worrying about Easter liturgies, white robes for Baptism, schedules, practices and so on.
Pastors and worship committees and musicians are readying the complex Church ceremonies for Holy Week. The candidates themselves must be anxiously anticipating this big “life change.”
And what about all the rest of us?
Ordinary Catholics, hopefully, have also been walking a Lenten path. They shouldn’t be isolated from all the RCIA stuff–after all, the purpose of Lent is to prepare candidates for Baptism. In fact, Lent for all Catholics is meant to be, in part, an act of solidarity with the candidates. But Lent is also about the kind of personal conversion that is the ongoing work of every Christian.
It’s ongoing because we Catholics, frankly, don’t subscribe to a once-for-all, “I-gave-my-life-to Jesus” kind of conversion. No offense to fellow Christians intended here! Rather, it’s a matter of perspective. Even if you committed to Christ as a teenager or were baptized as an adult, doesn’t every day offer choices (temptations?) to stray from that commitment? Doesn’t every day present new opportunities to reinforce that choice of Jesus as personal savior?
Lent, then, is a time of emphasizing this ongoing process of choosing. From our perspective, that is “work.” It’s difficult and a desert at times.
But there’s also the caveat that all conversion, all Christian life, is “graced.” That is, it is all a gift of God. Our Baptism as infants, our upbringing in the Christian life, our adult choices for Jesus, our daily struggle with temptation, the “graced” moments when we see God’s love at work–all these are gifts, all are made possible by God’s power. Without God, we could not exist, much less walk the Lenten path.
So, yes, Lent seems long, and the conversion road never seems to end. But if we think it’s all our doing, abandoning the path will soon seem like a good choice. Let’s not forget to let go, and allow God to woo us, entice us along the way, challenge us with choices and–yes–carry us over the rough stretches.
Some journeys never seem to end. But at this stage in Lent, we can see ahead the mount of Calvary, and beyond it, the garden and the tomb. For Christians, the celebrations of Easter in just a few days will offer a wonderful oasis of rebirth!