New Year’s is the one time of the year that both Christians and non-Christians alike make resolutions to change their way of life, whether it’s losing weight, cleaning out their closets or planning a dream trip.
When it comes to the Christian life, specifically for Catholics, the Church highlights three additional seasons to encourage the faithful to examine our lives and then rid ourselves of those things that keep us from seeking Christ more fully.
The first time of year is Advent–when penance, prayer and fasting prepare us to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The second time is Lent, and it’s so big and widely practiced that even fast food restaurants assist our abstinence from meat. Lent is a 40 day period when we aggressively take on the disciplines of prayer, penance and fasting. The third is not exactly a season. The Catholic Church encourages the faithful to receive Holy Communion often, but requires us to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, preferably during the Easter season. Examining our consciences and participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation are the most amazing ways to prepare for the Eucharist.
A time lived intensely for Jesus
We are currently journeying through the 40 days of Lent. There is an incredible opportunity before us right now! Last April, Pope Francis proclaimed a Jubilee Year of Mercy for the whole world (December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016). This is a special time to reflect on God’s mercy, to receive it and to extend it to others. The Pope expressed:
“The season of Lent during this Jubilee Year should also be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.”
As I said we have an incredible opportunity in our midst. We can choose for Lent to be a fruitful time for our relationships with Christ. In the words of Pope Francis, as a time lived intensely for Jesus! Or, we can let the time slip away as another meaningless 40 days. We can squander this opportunity available to us to grow and become more like the individuals and communities God is calling us to be.
Let’s join Pope Francis. Let’s accept this Lent during the Year of Mercy as an invitation and a challenge to tackle the hard stuff. The hard stuff meaning those death-dealing things we can’t seem to break free from.
We have two and half weeks remaining of the 2016 Lenten journey. Let’s give this final stretch our best. Will you jump all in?
You can finish strong
If you started off strong at the beginning of Lent, but have lost energy, become discouraged, or fallen back to old ways, consider this as your moment to start again with a renewed spirit. Go for it! Give Jesus all the excruciatingly difficult things you struggle with that keep you from growing closer with Him. Give it all to Him, everything… including your sexual sin, specifically masturbation and pornography usage.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I view pornography?
- Do I regularly confess the sin of pornography?
- Do I want to overcome my addiction to pornography?
If so, bring this struggle to Jesus in these last weeks of Lent. He is merciful and wants to see you free of this struggle. This is a big distraction in your moving forward and closer to God and growing as His son or daughter.
Steps for a fruitful end to Lent and beyond
To help you bring this struggle to Jesus, here are a few steps to take that will even bring you to a life of virtue beyond just Lent.
- Spend time in Scripture. Pope Francis encouraged us to take time with Sacred Scripture in order to discover the merciful and loving face of the Father and contemplate His deep love for you. Allow yourself to believe that you are loved and are loveable! Say out loud: “I am loved!” “I am loveable!” “I am unique and unrepeatable!” You can start with Luke 15:1-32.
- Set up Internet Accountability and Filtering with Covenant Eyes on all of your electronics.
- Frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also seek out spiritual direction. Through spiritual direction and confession, you may consider the benefit of seeking out a professional therapist.
- Plunge yourself into prayer and ask for the gifts of humility, trust and surrender.