A recent New Yorker cartoon shows a couple in their swimsuits lounging under an umbrella on some beach. The caption reads: “Oh, no. We’re still us.” I think this captures very well how many of us are feeling by February or March of any given year. We thought we’d do better this year! We planned more carefully for those projects we want to complete. We were more realistic with the New Year’s resolutions. But we’re moving rapidly into this year, and we discover that we’re the same people we were before. Life continues to be filled with inconvenience and irritation. Our personal struggles and bad habits seem stubborn as ever. And our discouragement over lack of progress makes us more tired and less able to overcome our inertia.
Perfect time for Lent! This liturgical season focuses on prayer, fasting, charitable works, and assessment of a person’s spiritual condition. Lent can help us look at ourselves honestly. As we move through Lent, we will discover mercy and joy along with the negatives, but right now, before Lent begins, we can relax into the realization that we’re “still us.” We don’t have to try hard to be anyone else. We are the “us” God loved before we knew who God is or understood who we are. We are still us, created from love, by love, for love. And love is not about making this our best year ever. Love is not about accomplishing a list of goals. Love makes it possible for “us” to be good enough today, this moment, because we are never “us” alone. We are “us” plus the abundance of God.
May we move toward Lent unencumbered by the expectation that we’ll pull ourselves together before it’s time for the season’s prayers and other practices. May we move toward Lent knowing that its practices will help us leave our burdens with Jesus, the Christ. He welcomes all burdens whether they are serious sins to confess or personal to-do lists that make us impatient with ourselves.
- How does it feel to say to yourself, “I’m still me”? Sit with this statement and the feelings that go with it. Use these feelings as a starting point for a little conversation with God.
- Try to list several reasons you need Lent this year.
Plan now for your Lenten practices with helpful resources from Loyola Press.