Dear Fellow Parishioners,
By the time you read this, it will be the Easter Vigil or Easter morning. Over the last four days of Lent (Holy Monday through Holy Thursday) and the Triduum (Holy Thursday evening to the Easter Vigil) our cold, wet winter and early spring will begin to give way to warmer days and brighter skies – a resurrection, so to speak, all around us.
Lent (at 40 days) is the second-longest liturgical season of the year, second only to the Easter season (50 days) which follows. The result is to give special emphasis to Jesus’s Resurrection, post-resurrection appearances, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Ascension and The Triduum (Latin for “three-dayer”) is a distinct period, a time of such spiritual intensity that it lasts only as long as it takes for Jesus’ saving works to be accomplished in time.
Every year, as Lent draws to a close, some believers begin to feel down and disappointed in themselves because their lenten observance fell far short of their initial intentions and expectations. Some resolutions were kept intermittently, or perhaps not at all. The routine demands and stresses of life were not so easily interrupted. Old habits proved more difficult to overcome, and new habits proved harder to establish than we had hoped. To be blunt, it is possible for a person to believe that this year’s Lent was in some ways a failure for them. Little of this is necessary or helpful, unless it is the kind of holy regret that leads not to darkness, but to repentance, forgiveness and drawing closer to the Lord. Lent is over, and we are rarely the best of judges in our own case. We would do well to set aside our own self-judgments in favor of God’s, and entrust Lent’s results in our regard to Him.
Whatever our spiritual practice, in Lent or any other time, it is God alone who can use our time, our efforts and the events of our lives toward our eternal salvation. If a “successful” Lent is defined by resolutions confidently made and proudly kept by our efforts alone, it is not clear what sort of spiritual fruit that would bear, either.
In addition to whatever Lenten resolutions we made, it is quite possible that we performed other acts of charity: caring for an aging parent or ill child, holding one’s tongue or keeping peace in the family when it would have been easier to criticize or judge, suffering with grief or worry over family members or friends, finally letting go of an old resentment, or just doing something that lightens the weight of the world for someone. We can take a broader view of Lent and offer up our entire past six weeks, its highs and lows, on the Cross on Good Friday, so that we can run, free and unencumbered, toward the empty tomb on Easter.
Fr. Bill Donahue