How has your Lent been? Are you feeling tired? Or are you feeling renewed? Maybe a little of both. As Lent is drawing to a close and Holy Week and Easter Sunday are fast approaching, I’ve been reflecting on the areas of my heart that the Lord has uncovered throughout this Lenten journey. I have felt a whole range of different emotions this Lent-I have seen areas of growth and transformation within myself and I have seen areas of my life where it reaffirmed how badly I need God’s continued mercy and grace.
Recognizing our gifts and recognizing our own poverty are both necessary for our spiritual growth. If we focus too much on our virtue, we may fail to see the things within our lives that need to be chipped away. But, if we focus too much on our poverty and brokenness, we will fail to see the goodness of God that resides within each of us. And there is SO MUCH goodness!
The whole Lenten season is about interior transformation and growing in holiness, which starts with reflecting on Christ’s deep love and sacrifice for us. So I think it’s important to reflect on where we are before Jesus, especially as Lent draws to an end. Have I drawn closer to Him? How has He blessed me this Lent and how has He stretched me? Did I slow down enough for me to feel His deep love for me? This last part is so necessary for our souls. We must learn how to feel and abide in God’s love for us, otherwise the process of conversion just feels too unbearable. His love is what enables us to have the courage to keep trusting Him with our ongoing transformation.
Cleansing our Souls
In addition to reflection, now is the time to take ourselves before the Lord and allow Him to cleanse our soul. What joy to be able to celebrate His Resurrection free of sin on Easter Sunday. Can you imagine the joy it brings to our Lord to see us receive the mercy that He poured out for us on the cross? Mother Mary, in her apparitions in Medjugorje told the visionary Marjana these things regarding confession:
“My children, only a pure heart, unburdened by sin, can open itself, and only honest eyes can see the way by which I desire to lead you.” (December 2, 2011)
“Dear Children! In the great love of God, I come to you today to lead you on the way of humility and meekness. The first station on that way, my children, is confession. Reject your arrogance and kneel down before my Son.” (July 2, 2007)
“…I desire to help you to be free of the dirtiness of the past and to begin to live anew and differently. I am calling you to resurrect in my Son. Along with confession of sins, renounce everything that has distanced you from my Son and that has made your life empty and unsuccessful.” (May 2, 2011)
“Kneel down before my Son.”
These words of our Mother hit my soul deeply when I read them. How often do we let our own pride and self-reliance stand in the way of receiving the fullness of Christ’s mercy? These words don’t just apply to those who rarely go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. How often do those of us who go frequently to confession, truly “kneel down” in humility before Jesus? The other day I was sitting in line for confession and that previous week the Lord had shown me areas of bondage within my heart, areas of harsh judgment towards others and unforgiveness I still carry. It was really discouraging to see these things in my heart and I just felt desperate for freedom. I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to pray from a place deep within my soul so I started praying, “Lord, I know there is power in this Sacrament, power to break through all the places of bondage within my heart. I ask for you to release every grace and for the power of this Sacrament to be fully unleashed.” I felt the power of God in that moment.
In that moment of prayer, I truly believed that there was nothing God couldn’t release me from. It reminded me how essential it is for us to truly kneel before God and ask Him in humility and with confidence, for His power and grace to penetrate our hearts in a deeper way. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not just to forgive us from our sins, but is meant to truly heal and transform us, to release us from our bondage so we can walk in freedom.
So often I just get in line for confession, do my examination and confess my sins, without even reflecting on the full power of what is taking place. The mercy from Christ’s sacrifice is being poured out to us each time we enter the confessional, but how often do we connect what took place on Good Friday to what is taking place in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Without Jesus laying down His life for us, we would be forever stuck in our sin.
We owe it to Jesus and to ourselves to receive His mercy every chance we get. We are renewed and healed in ways we can’t even see or understand when we leave the confessional. Mother Mary invites us to “begin to live anew and differently,” and she says “the first station on that way, my children, is confession.” Our Blessed Mother wants nothing more than to point us closer to her Son. We would be wise to listen to her.
Lord, complete Your healing within me
As we enter into the Paschal Mystery of our Lord’s suffering and death, let us unite all the pain or uncomfortableness that we experienced this Lent to His cross. Let us honor Jesus’ passion and death by continuing to die to ourselves, our sin, and all the bondage that keeps us distant from who Jesus is calling us to be. There is no better way to honor all Jesus gave to us upon the cross than to be willing to let Him empty us of the things we need to be healed from. There is no way we can love the way He loved us unless we become emptied of our selfish, conditional love, so we can be filled back up with His divine love. I truly believe that if we remain committed to letting Jesus enter our hearts, even after Lent ends, that He will be faithful to show us how to love Him and one another in ways we never knew we were capable of.
A priest friend of mine, Fr. Ignatius Mazanowski, wrote this beautiful reflection on healing and I wanted to share his wisdom with each of you. I pray that we will all continue on the path towards Jesus, for this is the path that leads to healing, hope, transformation and fullness of life.
“Healing is such a fascinating thing for me. There are so many aspects to it. As a priest I have amazing and privileged opportunities to help people experience healing and to walk with them on their journey towards the healing of their heart. One aspect I have been thinking about is the need to keep going, keep opening your heart to His healing, keep allowing God to go into those areas you haven’t let Him into yet, and to allow Him to complete the healing that He has already begun in you.
In order to “keep going” it requires you to persevere and not give up. You know failure is not falling down. Failure happens when you fall down and decide not to get back up. Falling down is so often part of the healing process. The important thing is to re-group and keep getting back up. We also need others to help us get back up. Maybe God is calling you to be that for someone else. I encourage you to ask Him – “Who are you calling me to encourage and strengthen in her / his weakness at this time?”
In order to “keep opening your heart to His healing” it requires courage. The courage to accept that there will be some pain, but getting through the pain to His healing love is more than worth it. Only you can open your heart. Only you can make that choice. God won’t force you; He won’t manipulate or take advantage of you. He will continue to invite and encourage you, but ultimately the choice remains in your hands. “Do you trust Me?” He is saying to you. “Do you trust me enough to open your heart to allow Me to do something only I can do? I will wait. The choice is yours.”
In order to “keep allowing God to go into those areas you haven’t let Him into yet” it requires vulnerability. It means asking yourself – “Where am I unwilling to allow God’s healing love to go? What part of my life am I unwilling to expose to Him in all vulnerability and honesty?” Believe me I know it’s not easy to do this, but what I can promise is that allowing God to heal your heart will change your life and you’ll never be the same again and it’s something you’ll never regret.
Finally, in order to “allow Him to complete the healing that He has already begun in you” (and some of you for sure are in this stage) it requires you to not give into settling for 80% or 90% and instead allowing Him to bring you complete healing. Healing of your mind, your heart, your desires, your emotions, your intentions and motives, your body, your hope for the future, and your faith in Him in the present. It means asking Him – “Father I know I have received a lot of healing in “this” area(s) of my life, but is there still more? And if so, where?” I think you’ll be surprised to find that there is still more. He is isn’t finished with you yet. This last and final stage of healing is a special one, it’s easier, it bears fruit in your ability to minister to others, and it will surprise you.”
Praying you all have a blessed Holy Week and a joy-filled Easter Sunday! 🙂
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
2019 Drewe DeJesus
Photo from Freely Photos by Hugues de Buyer Mineure