Turn To God this Lent
I recently read the heartfelt confession of a person who desires to grow spiritually but fails in the face of temptations.
When we succumb to temptations, our first reaction is usually shame, leading us to self-loathing and self-pity. This leads us to despair. Consequently, we hide from God like Adam and Eve did after they ate the forbidden fruit.
In discussing this, we must address “the elephant in the room” - Original Sin. Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden, the entire human race has inherited this condition. We are born with an inclination toward sin, sometimes called ancestral sin or concupiscence. This is the reality of our human nature, and where we should begin when looking at ourselves and others.
The goal of sin is to lead us away from God. Satan accomplishes this goal by trying to convince us that we are terrible, loathsome, unworthy because of what we have done. If we despise ourselves, then how could God possibly like, or even love us? Like Adam and Eve, we begin to hide from God. We stop praying, stop going to Mass, and stop growing spiritually.
There are a few noteworthy things in Adam and Eve’s story. When God confronts them, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent! In making the decision to disobey God, Adam relied on Eve and Eve relied on the serpent. Also, note that they did not ask for Mercy from God. No one took personal responsibility for relying on a wrong source, so there was no request for mercy.
As we enter this year’s Lenten Season on Ash Wednesday, let’s begin with the humble acceptance of our fallen human nature. The Times once sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” and G.K. Chesterton responded simply, “Dear Sir, I am.” In accepting our own fallen condition, we also accept others as ourselves. This is symbolized when we put ashes on our foreheads. We ask for God’s mercy because, despite our human condition, God continues to love us. This trust in God’s love encourages us to keep coming to God for strength and perseverance on our journey of faith.
Satan also whispers to us that we can rely on ourselves to conquer our failings. Hard work and discipline may get us desired results in life, but spiritually, this doesn’t work. We cannot progress spiritually without God.
Hiding from God does not solve anything. It only makes our condition worse. We must keep turning to God despite our fallen condition. Keep asking for mercy despite our repeated failures. Keep relying on God’s grace to pick us up so we can begin again.
- Fr. Ben