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The Christophers: Pursue Reconciliation in Your Lenten Journey

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.,

 

Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday until the evening of Holy Thursday. If you exclude Sundays, when we take a break from penance, that time period amounts to 40 days. This serves as a remembrance of the 40 days of Christ’s trial in the desert, and it is a time when we should challenge ourselves to walk in His footsteps, striving for the detachment necessary to face down the temptations of this world.

There are many ways to take up this challenge during Lent, such as prayer, fasting, abstinence, and renunciation of pleasures of all kinds that exert an undue hold on us. And there are things we can do during Lent to try to reorient ourselves towards lives of service to God and others—and away from excessive focus on our own concerns.

But there’s one simple yet vital activity that can serve as a springboard for these many potential approaches to Lent, and that’s to avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This healing sacrament is a great starting point because it entails self-examination, which is essential if we are to tailor a Lenten plan to suit our struggles and our needs.

A few years ago, I was privileged to be featured in a short video series on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which can still be found on The Christophers’ website, www.christophers.org. In that series, we focused on sharing unique perspectives to help people open their hearts to the healing nature of this great gift of forgiveness that Christ has given to the Church.

One of the things we highlighted was the disposition we are trying to return to in availing ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s a state of innocence we seek, and we arrive at that state by unburdening ourselves from the weight of sin and the sense of guilt that goes along with whatever wrongs we’ve committed.

Let’s face it: even minor transgressions against God and others can weigh us down, so it is tremendously healing to humble ourselves, admit our faults, and be reconciled with God and anyone we have wronged, even in small ways. The reward that awaits us on the other side of this sacrament is immense because reconciliation can transform us if we know what to look for in its outcome and if we make the process part of our regular routine.

After chastising the unrepentant, Christ exalts the humble of heart, saying, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

Christ exalts the humble because it takes humility to be repentant. It’s not hard to see that we’re all imperfect people, but it requires humility to look into our own hearts and admit our faults. Christ’s promise to those who engage in this process is to lighten our burden so that we can turn to those around us with a generous spirit, overflowing with the love of God, and not be held back by guilt or the pride that causes us to bury our guilt.

So, let’s remember what we’re aiming for and approach this Lenten season with a sense of purpose, knowing that our courage to face down temptation can lead us back to innocence, through the mercy of God, won for us by Christ’s redemptive sacrifice.

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note THE GIFT OF RECONCILIATION, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org  


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