LENT THE SEASON OF HOPE AND CHANGE
Once upon a time there was a poor woman, and a very selfish woman she was. One day she died leaving not a single good deed behind. The devil caught hold of her and plunged her into hell.
Her guardian angel stood by and wondered what good deed of hers he could remember to tell God about. The angel mentioned, “Why, she once pulled up an onion from her garden and gave it to a beggar woman.”
And God replied, “You take that onion then, hold it out to her in hell and let her take hold of it and be pulled out by it. If you can pull her out of hell, let her come into paradise. But if the onion breaks, then the woman must stay where she is.”
The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion toward her. “Come and catch hold,” cried the angel “I’ll pull you out.” And he began cautiously pulling her out. He had almost pulled her out when the other sinners in hell, seeing how she was being saved, began clutching hold of her legs so they, too could be pulled out.
However, she was a very selfish woman and began kicking at them. “I’m to be pulled out, not you. It’s my onion, not yours. Let go.” As soon as she uttered these words, the onion broke. The woman fell back into hell where she remained to this day. (The Onion by Fydor Dostoevski)
During the season of Lent in our Catholic tradition the church offers us the opportunity to embark on a journey of transformation and change. The journey of transformation begins with the confrontation of oneself – with oneself in one’s sinfulness, untruthfulness and wounded-ness. As self-confrontation begins, one comes to true self-knowledge, to compassion and communion with self and others.
Experiences of life, if we have been reflective over the years, reflect to us that as we grow in the life of faith, grounded in Christ, we become increasingly aware of areas of life we need to change. No family, place of employment, local community or any established institute is a place where those who are already perfect live in perpetual harmony but an organic community subject to the struggles that beset every person. Often as people of varying dispositions and diverse personal histories try to live and work together in the fishbowl intimacy of human relations, these struggles intensify.
Well, maybe like the old woman in the story of the onion, we tend towards selfish behaviour that inflates our ego and opinion of ourselves. In the process of ourselves climbing onto the pedestal of self importance we push our neighbours and even those we love into the shadow of our goodness.
The story of the onion would appear to emphasise the importance of doing good deeds which we all know are the right things to do. However, the challenge this Lent might be to look at the reasons why we do the good deeds we do or why we fail to do the good we know we are called to do? What are our attitudes and our motivations? What do we hope to gain for ourselves? What do I need to change in myself? etc…
This challenge can hold true for any area of our lives that we want to change this Lent, with God’s grace.
BUT before we begin our Lenten resolutions for change let us remind ourselves that we are not asked to wallow in guilt or engage in belittling who we are but truly to know ourselves always in the presence of an all-seeing, all-loving God who calls us to repentance. Our self-will frequently leads us into ways that distance us from our Creator, but the return home is always a celebration of grace and a feast of delight. We need not be overly ashamed of our sinfulness as this is the human condition but we need to acknowledge that we are sinful and need conversion. This is a daily challenge against Pride, Laziness, Lust, Anger, Fear, Jealousy, etc.
We are not to forget that God’s power is his love, and that our misery is no obstacle to that love. On the contrary, St Francis of Sales affirms that our need serves as a kind of throne for Divine Love. Often times we think too much about our own wretched selves, and that is why we are so unhappy.
The beautiful saying of St Augustine is well known:
‘We are made for God, and our heart remains restless and troubled until it finds rest in Him’.
We must ask God to teach us to live this truth. In practice, this is how it should be lived… it is not a question, as you may well imagine, of getting rid of all our faults and failings, but of turning to God with these very faults and failings, and of giving ourselves to Him just as we are. How many souls would enjoy divine peace, if only they realized this and acted on it. We spend our time bemoaning our faults and looking at ourselves, instead of looking at Him and growing greater. For that is what He is – Infinite Love, longing for us to give ourselves to Him so that He may give Himself to us (Monk).
… Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart,
With all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second resembles it:
You must love your neighbour as yourself.
On these two commandments hang the whole law!”
May we live from what is best in each of us
May you feel the presence of God walk with you during this great season of hope and change…