Reflect – The practice of reflection is vital to the Christian life. One of the greatest examples of this can be seen in the life of our Blessed Mother, Mary. Scripture tells us that on multiple occasions, she pondered things in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51). In our case, reflection involves looking back at Lent and deciding whether we became closer to the Lord. Are there still any obstacles that we can remove from our lives? Are we holding grudges, spending lots of time pursuing leisure activities, being selfish with our money or time? Are we in the state of mortal sin? How about venial sins or imperfections? If we conclude that there are no improvements needed, perhaps meditating on the words of the Apostle John may enlighten us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
Repent – Now that we’ve identified those things which may be keeping us from the Lord, what do we do? Without a doubt, the single most effective thing that we can do is to receive the Sacrament of Confession. The Lord gave us this tremendous gift and, sadly, it is rejected or ignored by many Catholics. In this sacrament, we have the opportunity to experience healing directly from Jesus Christ. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to His incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in His name and in His person.” (CCC 1120) It is especially important to remember that we must be in the state of grace (free from mortal sin) before receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion. The good news is that the absolution received in the Sacrament of Confession will cleanse us from our mortal sins and restore our souls to the state of grace. What about if you haven’t committed any mortal sins? According to the Catechism, “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.” (CCC 1458) Here’s a little known “secret” for those of you who keep committing your “favorite” sins and can’t seem to make any progress in eliminating them – The grace received in the Sacrament of Confession will help you to conquer those habitual sins. God knows that we are weak and doesn’t expect us to do this alone. Take advantage of His help!
Remember – One of the best ways to prepare for Easter is by participating in the services of Holy Week. I strongly recommend attending the Holy Thursday liturgy and Good Friday services. My wife has commented that when she didn’t participate in these events, Easter “just wasn’t the same”. As sensory beings, feelings are very important and can even bring us closer to Christ. By reliving these events with the Lord, we will feel closer to Him and will be able to more fully rejoice on Easter Sunday. On Holy Thursday, the Church commemorates the Lord’s Last Supper during which He instituted two sacraments – The Eucharist and the Priesthood. He also gave us a great example of the importance of service to the Christian life when He washed the Apostles’ feet. On Good Friday, we travel to Calvary with the Lord and recall that our sins were the reason for His crucifixion. As Saint Francis of Assisi bluntly stated, “It is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.” While most of us would rather to put the blame for the crucifixion on Pilate and the Jewish people, the Church reminds us that WE are ultimately responsible for the painful death of the Lord due to our sinfulness (CCC 598).
Rejoice! – Now that we have admitted our guilt, sought forgiveness, and traveled with Our Lord to the Last Supper and Calvary, we can rejoice with Him on Easter. Why? According to the Church, “Jesus, the Son of God, also Himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite His anguish as He faced death, He accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to His Father’s will. The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.” (CCC 1009) By virtue of the Lord’s sacrifice, death has been transformed into a gateway to eternal life. This is a joyous occasion that should fill our hearts with gratitude and love for our Savior.