My Recap of Lent
“The man who belongs to God listens to God’s words; it is because you do not belong to God that you will not listen to me” (John 8:47)
In each of the past few years, it seems like I’ve approached Lent differently. Some years I overload myself with penances - not watching TV, drinking soda, or eating sweets - and some years I don’t give up anything of real meaning. In the weeks leading up to Lent this past year, I asked friends, listened to talks, and asked God what He wanted my Lent to be like. One thing in particular that kept coming up time and again was the need to make 15 minutes of meditative prayer (listening to God) a daily thing. So that’s what I did.
Each morning, I would wake up 15 minutes earlier and crack open John’s Gospel. I would first invite the Holy Spirit, ask the Lord to listen to some special intentions and share with Him what was on my heart: my desires, my worries, my feelings. Then I would read 10-15 verses, underline parts that stood out to me, and then listen. I would ask questions like, “Why this verse, why this word, why this event?”, as a means of trying to hear what God wanted to reveal to me in His Sacred Scriptures that morning.
I found time and time again the same themes that stood out to me in the morning reappearing throughout my daily interactions. One instance was through the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel. In this chapter, Christ heals a man who had been blind from birth. When his disciples ask who was guilty of sin that caused this man to be blind, Jesus responds, “it was so that God’s action might declare itself in him” (John 9:3). Not only did I pause and think about how God the Father was seeking to reveal Himself to me in those I interacted with, it gave me fresh eyes in witnessing suffering in my life. Throughout my day that day, and in the time since, I’ve been able to take a deeper look at the moments and interactions of my day, seeing where God may be drawing me outside of myself to witness his Glory.
While the meditative prayer was a great Lenten practice and is something I’ve continued to implement daily since, there were certainly aspects of Lent that I wish I entered more fully into. There wasn’t really one big (or even small) thing I “gave up”. At first I didn’t pay any attention to this. But it was at Easter, celebrating with my family, that it bothered me the most. My cousins were rejoicing in being able to look at Instagram again. My little sister was joyfully eating bread! My wife was able to watch YouTube and Netflix again! There was an palpable joy in their ability to partake in those pleasures again, a joy that I felt I couldn’t fully appreciate.
In some ways, I was jealous of my family and friends. Interestingly enough, I felt oddly similar to the other brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Here I spent my Lent getting to know the Father and staying close to Him, like the son who remained home while the spendthrift son spoiled his father’s inheritance. Now, the others weren’t going out and spending an inheritance during Lent, but they certainly got closer to that point of destitution, that point of realizing that joys and pleasures will always fall short of the true joy, the true pleasure of being a beloved son or daughter of God the Father. As Christ tells us, after explaining to the disciples how they are connected to the Father: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
My Lent wasn’t perfect, and while I am slightly bummed out about it I am beginning to realize that it will never be perfect. The truth is the longing we experience is actually the longing for Union with Christ, something we may not ever fully realize this side of Heaven. But this does not mean we should settle for mediocrity. Our longing for perfection indicates our desire for union with the Infinite, the God of the Universe. Each day is an opportunity to draw nearer to the One who is Perfection Himself.
Aside from the downfalls, I certainly felt my prayer life and relationship with God the Father increased in intensity this Lent. One verse really struck me in regard to daily mental prayer with God the Father: “The man who belongs to God listens to God’s words; it is because you do not belong to God that you will not listen to me” (John 8:47). These words of Jesus come in response to the Jews who don’t yet understand who God the Father is. This verse essentially spoke to me: if I want to belong to the Father, I ought to listen to His word”. I would highly recommend not only adding 15 minutes of meditative prayer to your daily routine, but also praying with John’s Gospel. Christ constantly is discussing his own relationship with God the Father, and by extension, revealing how this same relationship is opened up to us all.
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