“We are not meant to ‘succeed’ at Lent but to fail and know our dependence upon Grace.” – Elizabeth Scalia (p.53, Happy Catholic)
Isn’t it nice to know this? That we needn’t have been perfect this Lent? That the point is really not so much that we have moved through it flawlessly, but that we have moved through it, grasping for our Lord each step of the way?
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t conduct myself perfectly this Lent. I got behind on one of my daily commitments, and I allowed details of my work to claim my attention to the point of not keeping up with my devotionals on a regular basis. There were Fridays I forgot it was Friday and inadvertently ate meat. Usually, I remembered at some point in the day, sometimes too late, but yes, I messed up a few times.
As enthusiastic as I was at Lent’s beginning, anticipating the amazing, spiritual experience that is always a possibility, some days I slogged through, more closely resembling a tired caterpillar than a butterfly on its way to a grand celebration.
But with this quote, I’m reminded that we’ll never achieve perfection in this life. We can only capture glimpses of it, sometimes just enough to keep us pushing forward. This life was never meant to be a utopia. Rather, it was meant to be a training ground for the true banquet that will come later — after the groveling has been groveled out, the tough lessons learned, the grief and joy experienced to a point of total surrender to Christ.
The dichotomy of the Christian walk came at me twice this Holy Week when friends in two separate faith groups reflecting on Passion Sunday asked, “Why the palm branches and celebration coupled with the sorrowful reading of Christ’s death?” It struck me this year, too — life and death so closely paired, contrasting each other just like this Lent did to me.
One gal offered a possible answer. Apparently in ancient times, the waving of palms signaled war. Given that, the confluence of apparent celebration and impending death doesn’t seem so contradictory.
I think this is an important reality to grasp, this glaring contrast of what are lives here are meant to be. In failing we win, in giving up we gain, and in dying we live. When looked at this way, we have nothing to lose by heading into enemy territory with confidence, knowing that even if it appears our side is losing, in the end, we will rise triumphantly and have abundance of life beyond anything we could have imagined.
On a related note, my atheist friend and I have enjoyed a great first week of our collaborative blog, An Atheist and a Catholic. We’ve reached nearly 1,000 views and were even mentioned on the online website of a national Catholic magazine. I see this effort as demonstrative in the “failing is winning” category. Neece and I have failed in the hopes we might have had at the start to convince the other that our belief is the most right, but in that “failing,” a friendship has been formed that already has borne fruit.
One more quote before I leave to move through the final piece of Lent — the commemoration of Jesus’ death — and onto the most glorious day of the Church year:
“Blessed are they who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” – James 1:12
Q4U: What are you willing to sacrifice for a greater good?
Copyright 2011 Roxane Salonen