Wednesday 12 April 2023

A new season

The Church quite likes to break the year up into forty day blocks. We have finished the forty days of Lent, and entered a new period of forty days — the time that Our Risen Lord showed himself among his disciples until he was taken up into heaven.

So how did Lent go? If we didn’t do as much as we planned, we have another forty days to try again. Not with fasts and penances — that wouldn’t really fit with the joy of Easter. But if we planned to spend more time in prayer or spiritual reading — and didn’t — why not do it for these forty days of Easter? Only this time, think of it as an Easter treat rather than a Lenten penance, and we might be more successful. Prayer isn’t supposed to be a punishment. So if we thought of it as a burden during Lent and didn’t make time for it, think of it as a pleasure during Easter, so that we want to fit it in to our day.

And if we struggled to overcome our sins and bad habits during Lent, in this season of Easter, don’t stop! We aren’t supposed to celebrate the Resurrection by giving up the fight against sin. But we have a chance to approach these activities differently. Rather than thinking about resisting temptation, think about seeking virtue. Instead of fighting the devil, think about embracing Our Lord. Think of Mary searching for him in the garden. Think of Peter jumping out of his fishing boat and running to him standing on the shore. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

Remember always the maxim of St Philip, that “The Lord grants in a moment what we may have been unable to obtain in dozens of years.” Certainly, then, it can take more than forty days to become perfect, and we mustn’t be disappointed if we had not become so by the end of Lent last week. While a perfect Lent is good, an imperfect one has the potential to be better, if from our inability to fast and pray we learn a greater humility and trust in God. We don’t make ourselves perfect. God does. So that even if we fail in our Lenten observances, we can enter the season of Easter with a greater appreciation for what God works in our lives. And if we’re still not saints by the end of the forty days of Eastertide, the season after Pentecost lasts all the way to Advent…

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