As we approach the end of Lent, Jesus gives us a beautiful and stunning reminder of what we’ve been striving for these last five weeks: freedom. “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). A slave of sin. It’s a scary thought. And it’s easy to see how true it is.
We’ve all seen stories of successful people who have built their personal or professional lives on lies or fraud or fornication or victimization . . . and how it becomes more and more difficult to extricate themselves from all that to live a virtuous life. Not impossible, of course, “for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26), but formidable.
So in my comfortable, quiet, stable life, it can be tempting to say, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity” (Luke 18:11). But it’s not just BIG UGLY SINS that can enslave. These comforts of a comfortable life are dangerous too.
It’s embarrassing to admit how much I come to see a Netflix episode (or two or three) and my secret stash of sweets as necessary to my very existence . . . as something I deserve and require if I’m going to fulfill my daily duties. While there might be nothing inherently sinful about watching TV or eating peanut butter cups, there is a real enslavement that comes when I depend on those comforts instead of God. Every year during Lent, I give up TV and sweets, and prove to myself yet again that I can live without them (because I have invariably forgotten) and allow God to fill that void with Himself.
As we head into Holy Week, I want even more to focus on repentance, detachment from comforts, and radical dependence on Jesus in His Passion. I want to say with the tax collector, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (John 18:13). And with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “The ways of the Lord are not easy, but we were not created for an easy life, but for great things, for goodness.” (Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Monday, 25 April 2005.)
What have you given up for Lent? See this listing of customary practices. Which ones are you pursing?
Kendra Tierney is a forty-two-year-old mother of nine and wife of one living in and working on a big old fixer-upper house in Los Angeles. She's a homeschooler and a regular schooler and is relishing the new freedom from carpooling that's come with a sixteen-year-old in the house. Her new book, The Catholic All Year Compendium, Liturgical Living for Real Life, is here. You can find her first book, A Little Book About Confession, here, her blog here, and her word art here.