2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
As we begin our journey into Lent, we should not be thinking, "What are my personal goals for this Lent? How do I want to change my life? What problems do I want to deal with?" Now, I am not saying that we cannot have some personal goals, but Lent is about the Church, the whole human family, and not just me. It is possible that someone might say, "I have done quite well this past year. I have my life in order. My faith life is humming along. I will not enter into Lent too much this year. Maybe next year I will need it more."
We are told that Jesus became sin for our sake. He could have said, "I am without sin. I will stay away from that mess." Rather, he wrapped himself in our flesh and blood, taking upon himself our humanity. Though born without sin, he covered himself with our sin, or as St. Paul would say, "The Father put our sins upon his son".
Lent is a season when we declare our oneness with the entire Church, even the whole human family. We seek to cover ourselves with the fears, struggles, anxieties, even sins of all our brothers and sisters. Many are starving to death. Others are near despair because of the mess of the world economy. How many there are caught in an addiction to drugs, to pornography, alcohol, etc. We believe that our God is "gracious and merciful… and relenting in punishment." Covering ourselves with the ashes, a reminder of our frailty and finality, we bow before God in prayer and penance, begging him to relent, and bestow great compassion on this suffering, struggling group of people.
Lent takes on a depth of meaning and a much greater emotional experience if I see it as the whole world, myself included, crying out for a great outpouring of God healing, love and compassion.
Scripture scholars speak of Jesus as a "corporate personality", one who represents all of us, taking us through death and resurrection. During Lent, we should develop a sense of being a "corporate personality", a person who represents the whole human family. We put that great grouping of people, in all its hurts and needs, before the flow of God’s blessings, streaming from the pierced side of his son, Jesus Christ. You might be surprised how special this Lent will be if you approach it with this focus.
Fr. Blaise Czaja, C.P. gives parish missions and retreats. He is a member of the Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.