By Amanda Houska
I have to say that the 40 days that led up to this Easter Sunday were pretty darn rough for me. I set out with high hopes for the Lenten season, a list of goals if you will. You see, my spiritual life over the past year was a little less than beautiful and Lent was going to be just the thing I needed to get myself back on track. I pulled out the books I wanted to read, ordered a lenten journal, and promised myself that I would also pray the liturgy of the hours.
There were so many things that I wanted to do, to change or to achieve in my spiritual life in order to be ready to rejoice today.
I am going to be completely honest and share with you that I pretty much failed at every single one of those things that I set out to do. As I sat to reflect on Good Friday, I was pretty down on myself about how miserably I had failed and there was a certain distress I felt as Easter began to draw close (which is pretty messed up).
As I began to pray with the readings for Easter Sunday, I slowly began to realize that my long list of aspirations for Lent were born out of a comparison of my spiritual life today to that of my spiritual life years ago.
They weren’t born out of prayer, but out of comparison.
One of my favorite quotes was said by Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s so true, isn’t it? When I reflect on the moments in life where joy was lacking, I can usually pin-point the moment when I began to make comparisons. That was certainly true for me this Lent. Comparing my current self to my former self and even comparing myself to others. In this my joy was stolen, and I became distressed at the resurrection of Our Lord. From those comparisons I made in my preparations for Lent flowed forth an endless stream of lies including
“you are not worthy of that type of mercy and sacrifice or the joy the flows forth from it.”
Reflecting more on the readings that we hear today, I was both challenged and consoled. The Psalmist calls us to rejoice and be glad for “His mercy endures forever.” His mercy endures forever! Forever! Lent might be over, and I might think I failed, but His mercies are not just reserved to Lent and they certainly are not reserved only for those who completed Lent perfectly or for those who think themselves worthy. His mercy knows no bounds, it is freely given and it is forever.
In the second reading we hear, “Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Let us celebrate the feast not with malice and wickedness but with sincerity and truth... I don’t know about you, but when I read and prayed with this line, the old yeast I thought of was a malice toward myself for my failings over the past forty days, or even the past span of years. This call again to celebrate and rejoice challenged me to set aside the lies and self loathing and to instead take up sincerity, to believe in the truth we celebrate today. Jesus has done it, the victory is already won, and His mercies are endless despite whether or not I find myself worthy.
If your Lent was less than perfect, that’s okay.
There is a line in a prayer by Thomas Merton that says, “But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.” If your desire was to please Him, to draw nearer to Him this Lent then He is pleased. Be gentle with yourself and be reminded that the victory has already been won. Today we rejoice in that eternal victory over death. Jesus in His infinite mercy has conquered sin and death, and has given us the hope of eternal life. That mercy, His mercy, endures forever.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally inspired by the beauty of the religious life, and having encountered Jesus in that beauty, I discovered my mission to help others have a similar encounter with Christ. During a period of personal discernment, I stumbled my way into the digital world. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said that "everything is grace," and while in the end I did not become a religious sister, I found a deep desire within myself to communicate the Gospel message through beautiful and engaging visual media.