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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Redeemer and the Gift of Lent

Each of us has a great task ... that of becoming who God made us to be. Were we without sin, this task would still be impossible for us, left to our own resources and abilities. For indeed, the Lord created us in His Image and Likeness. This means that we are made to be the praise of God's glory, living icons of His hidden life and love in His visible creation. What creature could ever attain to such holiness and splendor? Yet, we are made, though a little less than the angels, the very crown of God's creative action.

The great purpose entrusted to each one of us was long ago made subject to futility because of the mystery of sin. From the very origins of humanity, the envy of Satan and the sin of our first parents has threatened our existence. Though we want to do what is good, noble and true, without Divine help, we are inclined to fall into an abyss of self-contradictions. Our desire to praise God, to make known His glory, never leaves us, even if it is utterly forgotten or resisted. Our restlessness and death remind us of our downfall and pride, but sin and its consequences are not the last word about humanity. Something more beautiful defines the mystery of our humanity, and every man and woman is invited to freely accept this calling if they will listen to the voice of God. The Father, whose thought of us delighted Him so much that He summoned us into existence, could not bear that we should perish without hope. As He promised, He sent us a Redeemer who would enter into our plight and rescue us from sin and death. This Good Shepherd did not fear the wolves that threaten our existence and he did not allow the distance that we had strayed to discourage Him in His search for us. A physician of the body and spirit, His words of truth are the remedy for the wounds we bear and the mistaken judgments that have driven us into myths and alienation. He does this more over by entering into our misery so deep that in the face of our hostility, He patiently remains and will not forsake us, anxious that we should not suffer alone.

Call to Him. He actively works, holding nothing back, until our dignity is restored and our every humiliation redressed. Indeed, all that is most precious to Him - His obedience to the Father and His own devotion to His Mother, He freely offers as a gift to all those who ask. Most of all, by his passion and Crucifixion, He merited for our sake that Divine Gift whose presence not only remits our sins and consecrates us in holiness, but infuses us with the love that the Father has yearned for us to know. An inexhaustible fountain, this sanctifying Gift infuses every moment with treasures too precious for this present life to hold, but imperfectly, for a time, if only we ask and accept what He offers us. Because even the most imperfect beginnings of this New Life offer so much hope to the world, we must also welcome Lent as a gift won for us by the Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. Lenten observance is no more than a participation in the graces already won for us -- and they point somewhere beyond the here and now, to mysteries so sacred and tender, even the greatest joys of this life are as nothing in comparison. We step into an arena because the life of the Risen Lord in us enables us to be contestants in the battle for all that is good, noble and true. We fight with confidence against all that threatens not only our own integrity but that of our brothers and sisters too because Christ gives us a sharing in His confidence. We do not fear our weaknesses but surrender them in prayer and repentance as occasions for the power of God to be made perfect. We run the race because the Spirit of the Lord quickens us on our way until nothing can hold us back from the prize. The Lenten Discipline invites us to embrace in our own lives the victory won for us at such great price. If we practice self-denial, it is because in the blood and water that flowed from His sacrifice we have already received all we really need. If we fast, it is because we already feast on the Bread of Life who sustains us with truth that no earthly bread can provide. If we are merciful to those to whom the Lord sends us, it is only because it is His mercy in us that compels us. If we sorrow over our sins and imperfections, we are also compelled by Christ to share our joy with others at any cost. We die to our earthly dreams so that Christ's dream for us might unfold in our heart and our spirit might finally awaken to love. In hours spent silently listening to the Word of the Father, we anticipate a reality too great for this world to contain, a fulfillment long ago yearned for by God and whose shadow calls to our existence even now. We offer our bodily existence in spiritual sacrifice because united to Christ in the Holy Spirit, our whole being finally begins to become what the Father predestined us to be: the praise of the Trinity's glorious grace.

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