Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 4, 2019

I have a member of my ministry team who is far more into the spiritual realm than I am; admittedly! She reminds me every year that the devil comes at us harder in Lent. I am seeing her point more and more every year at this time.

I don’t know about you, but ever since I have begun to pastor a church, I do tend to feel like Job during the Holy Season of Lent. I feel like God lets the devil a bit off his proverbial leash and things tend to get chaotic in my spiritual life, and ion the life of my parish, too. I guess it is because Jesus was tempted in the desert. And Lent is a time of our desert.

While I am not quite sure the devil is anthropomorphic for me, I do believe the devil – or Devil – comes in varied forms of attack to set us off balance or to even destroy the best of what we have in our lives. In doing so, the end result is that we lose that which is most precious. I have seen this play out in many forms in my years as a priest. Some leave the church or active ministry because they are not getting the attention they think the deserve, or they feel that being a priest is just about them and their needs. Some let their personal lives take precedence and their ministry flounders. Others leave because they are self-righteous, or not able to play well with others. Some are too haughty or prideful, and still others are true consumers and just want a concierge priest and concierge church that fulfills their every need, but often at the expense of the greater whole. Still others feel they are called to a higher level of ministry and would rather be a clergy person ensconced in a box of their own making, or a garage, or their own bedroom, than a fully credentialed and properly formed clergy person that is doing good in the world, rather than playing ‘dress up’. In other words, sitting at the feet and learning is too above them, as is following the true call of God. I am sure the Apostles would disagree.

While I am broken, and I am tempted in many ways, for me, this year, it has been the temptation to judge. St. Augustine once said that “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” I pray I can find my way to be an angel, even a broken one at that!  That is why I added the image here that I did; look at the dichotomy! As we opened the WE ARE ALL HOMELESS Exhibit, the photographer caught us not looking up at the signs but eating food! Perhaps an unplanned statement of our often misused best of intentions, or a reminder from God that we can all still do better…

So, if you are like me, and are naturally more strong-willed than those around us, there is a strong temptation to spend Lent patting ourselves on the back and comparing ourselves favorably to others. This is exactly what the devil wants. He wants us to think we are better than other people and to grow in pride, which is precisely what we should repent of during Lent. The best antidote for this will be to choose a penance that is absolutely impossible to achieve perfectly and will thereby challenge our tendency toward pride.

A true Lenten experience is not about giving up chocolates or fats; it is about realizing that even with the natural gifts that God has given us, we are still sinful and very much in need of grace.

St. Francis once said that “If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.”  This is so true, but not if your pride is in the way.

How will you allow God to come? How will you resist the temptations of pride and envy? Will you allow yourself to see others as God created and clear the lens of pride in this coming season of Lent?
 

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