During the liturgical season of Lent many Christians use this observance to reflect on their lives and to make adjustments as needed. This season of forty days (not including the Sundays) is a time of preparation for the Easter celebration. It includes fasting, restraint from excessive addictions, generosity, and a time to cleanse our lives of destructive behaviors. The introspection of our flaws isn’t much fun, but it can help us to sweep clean those things that hinder our ability to become healthy and whole.
In addition to assessing our personal practices of loving God with our whole heart, mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves, it is helpful to think about our relationship to our society as well. One’s examination of conscience may not include failure in keeping the Ten Commandments, but it could include a lack of concern for the welfare of others. The Litany of Penitence in the Episcopal Church includes the need for repentance “for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty; for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us; for our waste and pollution of our creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us.” Seeking help to address these concerns we ask God to restore us and to accomplish in us the work of God’s salvation.
Identifying issues that need our attention is not an exercise undertaken to damage our self-esteem or to view others as miserable sinners because they make many mistakes too. This exercise is meant to be undertaken in a positive way, to smooth the speed bumps on our spiritual journey. We can acknowledge our unity with creation and each other, refrain from tearing our oneness into little preferential pieces, and seek to increase our vocation to be lovers of God and one another.
Diets and exercise are meant to help our physical health. Lenten practices and disciplines are meant to nourish our spiritual lives and to enhance love relationships. Feeling bad about ourselves is not the object. God loves us whether we are bad or good. But with God’s help we can improve the quality of our lives by letting go of hurtful thoughts and practices that hinder our devotion to God and one another. Think of Lent in a positive way — a time for renewal and growth.