Lent a challenge to make God the center of our lives

I can’t believe it’s Lent! Advent, my favorite season, goes so fast. Lent, my least favorite season, seems to last so long! In Advent, we’re filled with joy at the anticipation of the birth of our Savior. In Lent, we anticipate the death of our Savior.

Yet, that’s not exactly true is it? In Lent, we really anticipate the death and resurrection of our Savior. The challenge for all of us is that we would prefer new life, without first experiencing death. We would all prefer Easter without a Good Friday. No less a luminary than Yogi Berra would say: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die to get there.”

The trouble with life is that death is so visible. As the Irish saying goes, “You’re dead a long time.” We see bodies in coffins. We pass cemeteries. Death is very visible.

Resurrected life is so invisible. It was true from the very beginning of our faith. Many people saw Jesus crucified. Only those with faith saw the Risen Lord. Human eyes can see death. Only the lens of faith can see life after death.

Lent is a time to let die in us what keeps us from seeing. Having had strokes (ischemias) in both of my eyes since 2002, I know what it’s like to live with constant glare, with constant flashing lights in my eyes, a narrowed field of vision. I know that I don’t see all that others see. Yet, I also know that because I can’t see it, it doesn’t mean that what others see does not exist. So it is with faith. Faith is another way of seeing – a better way, we believe.

A spiritual writer summed up Lent in a very succinct way. He said, “The secret of life is to die before you die so that you can live in freedom!” Put simply, we die to our false ego so that the real person can live. We die to identifying with all the things that society teaches us to identify with, but which are not really who we are. We die to our attachments, our desires, our addictions, our possessions, our titles, our reputation, and on and on.

Dr. Wayne Dyer had a profound thought. He said, “We have a choice. We can either be hosts of God, or hostages to our egos!” Lent challenges us to put God again at the center of our lives and not something else. The great priest Father Fred Cwiekowski, many years ago in the seminary, said, “If Jesus is not Lord of your life, something else will be!”

Lent reminds us of the things that clutter our vision. There is the constant glare of all the noise in our society. There are the flashing lights of our media and entertainment industry. There is the narrowed vision that comes from the world, the flesh and the devil.

One final thought: A commentator once shrewdly observed that when men do important things, they wear dresses. He said priests wear vestments. Judges wear robes. Academics wear gowns at graduations. Kings and royalty wear crowns and jewelry and fine capes. In the eyes of the world, the more clothes you have on, the more important you are.

Yet, at the end of Lent, we see a fully clothed crowd and a naked Savior – beaten, brutalized and hanging on a cross. Only when Jesus had let go of virtually everything the world considers important could the Father raise him up to new life!

Lent offers the same opportunity to us. Who would I be without my title, my money, my reputation, my position, my power, my family, my control? Lent tells us that, seeing with the eyes of faith, we might be like God.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.