As I make my way through Lent, I like to periodically stop and assess how I’m doing, and re-orientate myself toward my Lenten goal. This year, I’m feeling a bit scattered, and although I’ve been doing a pretty good job at keeping my Lenten resolutions, I don’t feel as though I have a really good grip on where I’m headed between now and Easter.
Usually, I have a particular objective in mind that I would like to achieve, with God’s grace, through my Lenten journey. Originally, I had in mind to work toward conversion, in keeping with the encouragement of Pope Benedict XVI in his letter, Porta Fidei, when he proclaimed a Year of Faith and asked the faithful to join him and reaching deeper into our faith. But, I’m finding that “conversion” is just too broad of a term for me to work on this Lent, and I see that I need to make some adjustment.
So, I’ve narrowed my goal a bit and instead would like to focus on the word “holy.” Perhaps that also seems like a broad goal, but I’ve added to the word specific dimensions that will help me along. After all, at its root, conversion is about becoming holy, isn’t it? To help me along, I’ve pinpointed four dimensions of holiness that I’d like to work on, one for each letter of the word, “holy,” and I’d like to share them with you.
H is for hope. According to the Catechism, “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. ” (CCC 1813) This Lent, I want to work hard at placing my trust in Christ’s promises, reminding myself daily – hourly, if necessary – that I do not stand alone in any of the trials I face. Even more, I want to be a beacon of hope for others so that they, too, can trust in Christ’s promises.
O is for obedience. Obedience is one of the three Evangelical Counsels. According to the Catechism, the Evangelical Counsels, “manifest the living fullness of charity, which is never satisfied with not giving more.” (CCC 1974) This Lent, I want to work hard at being obedient, not only to God’s commandments, but to his every wish and whim. I want to give up my own self-will and follow him in the spirit of servitude and humility, keeping in mind that my example of obedience can be a source of inspiration for others in their own obedience to God.
L is for love, of course. What else? The Catechism teaches us that love, also referred to as charity, is the soul of sanctification. “Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification,” it states. (CCC 826) The kind of love that I want to work hard at this Lent isn’t the love God above all else kind, or the do everything out of love kind, although those are vital to our spiritual growth. No, the kind of love I aim for this Lent has a singular purpose. This Lent, I’m striving to love the people in my life who cause me grief, irritation, or discord as our Blessed Mother loves them. What mother does not love her children not only in spite of, but even because of, their rough edges? That’s the way I want to try to love others.
Y is for, as you may have guessed, yes. This Lent, I want to joyfully renounce all that threatens to separate me from God, and say yes to the Cross, eagerly embracing it along with Christ. The Catechism calls this ascesis, “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes. ” (CCC 2015) I want to say yes to all that fosters my hope in, love for, and obedience to God. Sometimes that yes will be to wonderful, happy things, and sometimes it will be to difficult, heart-wrenching things. Regardless, I want to say yes to all that God has in store for me no matter what.
And there you have it; my re-aligned goal for this Lent is to be H–O–L–Y. It’s a plain, four-letter word that can have a tremendous amount of impact. As I try to live H-O-L-Y this Lent, I pray that it does indeed lead me to true holiness and genuine conversion.