From the time we are small we offer up candy and ice cream during the season of Lent in the hopes of making ourselves better. We do it because our mom and dad tells us it will make us better. Better people. Better Christians. Less selfish. All Lent long we do penance and alms-giving and sacrificial offerings in hope of transforming our spiritual beings into something worthy of Christ’s sacrifice.
We look down at our penitential selves to see if our wool is whiter? brighter? purer? since the start of this Lenten journey? Are we worthy of His forgiveness and sacrifice?
We find ourselves unchanged; we are still the same ol’ wolf in sheep’s skin that started on the journey with Christ. We promised not to eat the lamb, but the temptation was a scent away every-single-step-of-the-way.
I’ll be honest. I usually feel worse at the end of Lent. Like a young child, I’m dying of thirst for the cola or the chocolate milk I gave up. I’m not happy with my performance. I’m discouraged that what I did wasn’t good enough. I’m not satisfied with my resolve. The Lenten season is not even finished and I’m already thinking of what I can do differently next Lent. What can I do bigger and better? I count the times I broke our family’s fast of not eating out and remember the filet o’ fish sandwiches eaten in guilty solitude. I’m a pathetic being. My lamb’s skin is soiled and stained from the long, hard walk to Calvary.
And, beneath my penitent outer layer I am still a wolf. A selfish, judgmental wolf seeking her own satisfaction.
What began with good will and bright expectations such as attending Stations of the Cross every Friday has collapsed into moans of repetition and boredom from the children. This leads me to become impatient and annoyed. I snap at the gentle, innocent lambs that leap around me.
Yet, they are the true lambs. They do not hide their real self. They are proud of their little sacrifices and their little penances and their little offerings. They await Lent’s end with joy, knowing that their little palancas are enough for God. They don’t fret, because they have faith.
Faith in God’s mercy. Faith in God’s forgiveness. Faith in God’s unconditional love. Faith in the wolf in sheep’s clothing who guides them up the hill to Calvary.
We often feel incomplete as Christians, unsatisfied with our performance, unworthy of the unconditional love God has for us, guilty for the sacrifice He offered for us. At least I do. We see ourselves for what we really are: weak, human, sinful, imperfect, raw.
Yet, as we remove the fake sheep skin, we realize we are neither a sheep nor a wolf. God does not focus on our weak nature. He sees beneath our natural weakness, He looks past the fake skin we drape over ourselves when standing before family and friends. He looks only at our souls, that unmistakable image of Himself, that is washed clean by the blood of the lamb because the Lamb is all gentle and all innocent and all loving and all pure.
By journey’s end the wolf, like the lion of old, is contrite and humbled and, released of his outer layers, he lies peacefully with the lamb.
Copyright 2013 Cay Gibson