The prayers of the liturgy are rich, and one of my favorites is the collect of the Mass for Ash Wednesday: “Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.” I love the image of entering into battle with Christ for the next 40 days.
When I was praying with those words, however, I was also reminded of another verse: “The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still.” (Ex 14:14)
Fasting is good. Sacrifice is good. But sometimes we lose focus.
We make plans. We work hard. Drawing up Lenten plans for success, we decide to fast from social media or alcohol. In an attempt to fight temptation, we train our bodies to be submissive. Those are all good things. But we forget that ultimately, we can do nothing.
Christ wants us to join Him in the desert and battle with Satan. But think about it: before He did that, He was silent, alone, and in communion with His Father in prayer for forty days.
“The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”
What does God want most from you during these next forty days? He wants you to become a saint. That entails fasting and almsgiving. It demands self-sacrifice and mortification. It means giving up good things because Heaven is better, struggling to order our passions, training our bodies to answer to our minds (and not vice versa).
But it ultimately means getting to know Him. It means entering into intimacy with our Creator and Redeemer. That requires being still. It means sitting in adoration, in silence, in prayer, and allowing Him to speak to us.
We can work really hard at becoming a saint. But no one is pulling themselves up to Heaven by their own bootstraps. That’s an age-old heresy that keeps coming back again and again. The heresy hides within our desire to be better people – and thus we set out to create a self-help plan to work on our faults and grown in virtue. But we begin to lose sight of the fact that heaven isn’t something we earn or a prize achieved.
Do we have to work to grow in virtue? Yes. Do we have to labor to eradicate sins and faults from our daily lives? Yes.
But what does God want even more than our ten-point plan to make this the best Lent ever?
He wants us.
So go sit with Him for a while. Be still. Ask Him what He wants to do in your life this Lent. Perhaps He likes your ten-point plan. Or maybe He wants to do something else. But regardless, He wants you.