Now that Lent is here, many people are deciding what to do during this Holy Season. Some people automatically say, “It’s time to give up candy, alcohol or smoking.” That’s not the true spirit of Lent. Lent is a time for change and conversion. It’s a time to move our center of gravity from selfishness to others, from self-love to love of our neighbor, from lust to love.
One of the biggest problems for any religion is routine. We often do the same religious acts repeatedly but we forget why we do them. If our religious acts do not have meaning and purpose for our lives, they will not necessarily make us better people. We need to do religious acts that are life changing. In all situations, it is not what we do, but why we do it.
Lent is a time for us to renew our identity as Christians. During this Lenten season thousands of people throughout the world are preparing for their Baptism at Easter – preparing to take on a new identity. For those of us who are already Baptized, our task is to renew our identity as Christians. That means we must give up everything that is not of Christ, and put on the mind of Christ. We need to adopt his will, his ways, and his thoughts. Religious conversion is unconditionally falling in love, surrendering our lives to our loving God.
If we want to be someone who is unconditionally in love with God and others, where do we begin? We don’t do what we did last year. We want to open our horizons and see things as God sees them. We also need to look at ourselves today. That means we have to look at the demons that have taken over our lives. We have to identify what is not Christlike in our lives.
Spiritual writer, Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI gives us some examples. “Grandiosity is the demon that tells us that we are the center of the universe, that our lives are more important than those of others. This is the demon of self-preoccupation and self-centeredness, forever urging us to stand out, to be special. Loneliness is the demon of unhealthy restlessness.
“Unbridled sexuality is the demon of obsession, addiction, and lust. It makes us believe that sex is a cure-all, the final salvation, or, if not that, at least the best this world can offer. It urges us to put aside everything else – sacred commitment, moral ideal, and consequences for ourselves and others – for a single, momentary pleasure.
“Paranoia is the demon of bitterness, anger, and jealousy. It makes us believe that life has cheated us that we have not been given our just place, that the celebration is always about others and never about us. This demon fills us with the urge to be cynical, cold, distrustful, and abusive.
“Woundedness is the demon that tells us that our innocence and wholeness is irretrievably broken and that, for us, it is too late. The best we can do now is to take consolation in comfort, food, drink, pornography, drugs, or some such thing.
“The last demon in this family is that of joylessness, the demon of self-pity that tells us that joylessness is maturity, that cynicism is wisdom, and that bitterness is justice. This is the demon that keeps us from entering the room of celebration and joining the dance.”
Whatever our demons are, we have to name them, claim them as our own, and ask God to help us cast them out. Our Lenten observances must “fit the crime.” Let us ask our loving God to guide us to the Lenten practices that will empty our lives of everything that is not of God, so we can enjoy a renewed Easter celebration.