Lenten focus on forgiveness, gift and humility

By Fr. Zach Weber | Special To The Compass | March 22, 2022

Editor’s note: The following is part of a Lenten series on the topic of repentance. Lent is an ideal time to draw closer to God, turn away from sin and, in the words of St. John the Baptist, repent!

Recently, I heard a very holy religious sister say, “If the pandemic has not made you realize that you need to change, … I don’t know what will.” If anyone needs to be transformed more, it is always the person we see looking back at us in the mirror. Jesus offers hope to all, but it comes with the cross so we can share in his suffering and his glory. I would like to offer three daily practices for you this Lent and, hopefully, for the rest of your lives. 

St. Paul teaches us that repentance (a complete turning away from sin) means a total transformation of mind, body and soul. The beautiful fact about the Catholic faith is that we can be totally transformed by the Holy Spirit and the sacramental life of the church if we allow God to touch every part of our lives.

During Lent, I often reflect on St. Paul’s writings. In his letter to the Romans, he says, “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds. Then you’ll be able to test and approve of what is God‘s Will, which is good, pleasing and perfect” (12:1-2). 

Let’s break that down a little bit, shall we? Three words I invite you to focus on this Lent are: forgiveness, gift and humility. 

First, viewing everything in light of God’s infinite forgiveness, Catholic Christians profess to believe in a loving and merciful Father. He sent his only Son to go to war with sin, death, the devil and hell by dying for us because he would rather be with us for eternity than without us. Or as Bishop David Ricken often says, “If you were the only person on Earth, the Father would have sent Jesus to die just for you.”

During the pandemic, we have all been guilty of losing our focus on this core belief, or maybe it has just been me. One thing I have found very helpful is to pray out loud, “In the name of Jesus, I am sorry for not loving with a forgiving heart. Please help me have a life-changing confession this Lent and forgive myself and others.” 

Secondly, how many of us are giving our lives away by making a sincere gift of ourselves daily, as Jesus does perfectly on the cross? Maybe it is just me, but when I give myself away by doing little acts with great love, then, over time, bigger acts are not as difficult. If you struggle like me in accepting your own poverty and weakness, I invite you to pray out loud: “Jesus please meet me in my poverty and help me give myself away by making a gift of myself every day.”

Thirdly, how many of us daily spend time thanking and praising God for everything? Ouch! Just try not complaining for an hour. Even the hard things are gifts because, in the crosses we encounter, Jesus loves us so much by giving us a sliver of his cross. 

Daily gratitude by practicing the Examen Prayer of St. Ignatius is ultimately what a transformed and renewed mind says. Often when I am at my worst, I am impatient, but “love is patient” (1 Cor 13:4). I am my worst when I am ungrateful, but St. Paul says, “in all things give thanks” (1 Thess 5:16-18).

I am at my worst when I am prideful, but St. Paul says, “be completely humble and gentle, be patient bearing one another in love” (Eph 4:2). Grateful people are awesome to be around. I don’t even like being around myself when I gripe and complain.

For example, instead of complaining that I have to go to Mass or to confession, I sound peppy and upbeat. “Wow, I get to go to Mass” or “I get to go to confession!” Gratitude makes a really big difference.

You may have noticed that I have a fairly straightforward approach to Christianity. If that suits you, I’d love for you to join me this Lent, via my podcast. I am preaching a homily series called “Lent Un-Done” while journeying through the story of the Prodigal Son. You can listen by subscribing on iTunes, Podbean or Spotify! Just search: Father Zach Weber Homilies.

Fr. Weber is chaplain at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Newman Center.

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