Day 33: Repentance and Receptivity
Illustration: Juliana Crownover
We have now been on our Lenten journey for more than thirty days. This is a good time to step back and ask ourselves again, “So why are we doing this?” Is all this fasting, praying, confessing and reconciling really doing us any good?
One of the difficulties with the spiritual life is that it can be very difficult to assess on our own. This is one reason why the ancient practice of spiritual direction or even a good talk with a member of the clergy or a good friend can be helpful. Sometimes we need a good listener, attuned to the Spirit, who can help us see what is blindingly obvious and right in front of us. Sometimes God can be at work in our lives yet we don’t see it because we rationally attempt to explain it all away.
This is very easy to do. We live in a culture that still finds it increasingly uncomfortable to employ religious language and yet where “spirituality” is ever-popular, assuming it doesn’t make too many moral demands on us. We live in a society, and increasingly a Church culture, that wants to reduce events to categories it can control. We want scientific “facts” and statistics, not unfounded opinion. We want reason, not revelation. We want efficiency and convenience because this is what the world offers and frankly we like and expect it. As a result, we are at risk of misinterpreting the work of the Spirit because we have been taught since childhood to be independent, to take control of our destiny and to fight for what is ours. These are not particularly Christian virtues, and they run rampant in the Church.
This week, we examine the fruits that should come from a vibrant spiritual life. We want to try to see if there hasn’t been some benefit from our efforts to draw closer to God during this Lenten season.
A central theme for this week is receptivity. If there is one thing Christians would do well to develop, it’s a greater sense of receptivity to the Spirit. If we consistently become attuned to the Spirit, we will never be the same. For many Christians in our culture, however, it is exceedingly difficult to believe that life is not just a series of random events.
Of course, this is simply a problem of interpretation. Yet, what if we saw everything that happens to us – and I mean everything — as an invitation to join with the Spirit in the work of bringing light to the world? What if even our pain and disappointments were chances to learn how to join with God as we would a lover or a friend? This changed perspective might just transform how we look at the world. It might also transform us as disciples.
The Christian life should not be a grim affair. It should be joyful. And it will only become joyful as we get our focus off ourselves and onto others. Our own problems will melt into obscurity when we do. Thus, underneath all the somberness of Lent, little shoots of joy should break through. It’s a delight to be closer to God. This week, we want to make sure we sense this in a fuller way.
On Monday and Tuesday, we will observe the fruits of forgiveness and the benefits that come from a life of discipleship. On Wednesday, we examine a difficult saying from Jesus when He claims with the Psalmist “You are gods.” We will learn that Jesus is talking about the ultimate goal of the spiritual life which is union with the Divine. On Thursday, we will see how a genuine spiritual life should lead us to greater humility, while on Friday we will focus on receptivity and sensitivity to the Spirit as key traits disciples need to develop. Lastly, on Saturday, our final day in Lent before Holy Week, we will observe how the Eucharist is central in attaining union with Christ.