Lenten Purification and Enlightenment

$10000 QuestionAt some point in time, a momentous change in each of our lives occurred. We were baptized into Christ. Each of us; just about all of us; each individually–baptized into the life of the Savior. Every Christian can say: My future changed completely at that moment of baptism.

Changed how? I went from being a slave of mortality, facing inevitable oblivion, into being an adopted child of a loving and almighty Father, hopeful for goodness and eternal life. I went from the prospect of aimlessly wandering the earth to beginning the march to Mt. Zion. I became a member of a consecrated nation, a family. I became a captive redeemed, restored to the sublime birthright that was mine before the world began, when the good Lord above conceived of me in the infinite genius of His creative mind.

No event in our lives could ever rival the significance of our baptism. As Blessed Pope John Paul II answered the question: What was the greatest day of your life, Holy Father? When the Berlin Wall fell? When you were named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year? Chosen Pope? Ordained a priest? Born? No, he said. It all pales by comparison with the day I was baptized and made a child of God and a member of His Church.

Now, some people will live this Lent as the final stage of preparation for Holy Baptism. For these beloved brothers and sisters, the next forty days will be a period of purification and enlightenment. In fact, that is the official title of this stage of preparation for the sacraments: the Period of Purification and Enlightenment.

Sta Maria Cosmedin baptism mosaic

Now, maybe some of us long-time Catholics might say, “Okay, that’s great. But I thought this was called ‘Lent.’ I’m just going to give up desserts like I always do. These beautiful RCIA people can do their thing. It’s great. God bless them. But I call these forty days ‘Lent,’ and I am just going to put quarters in my Operation Rice Bowl box, like I always do.”

The problem here is that this season is the season of Lent precisely because it is the Period of Purification and Enlightenment for those seeking initiation into the Church. As we read in the gospel, the Lord Jesus secluded Himself in the desert and fasted for forty days in order to do battle with the Devil. From the beginning of Christian times, the Church has asked everyone who would join Her ranks to do the same, to undergo purification, so as to be enlightened by the glory of Easter.

So, let’s try to have a coming-together here. All of us, baptized-already and preparing-to-be-baptized, all of us need purification in order to prepare ourselves for the grand enlightenment of Easter Sunday. Let’s walk this path together.

Operation Rice BowlNow, what does it entail, this Period of Purification and Enlightenment?

Let’s start with what the Lord started with: the Devil. He is real. He is smart. He is unimaginably smart, as far as our feeble imaginations are concerned. We cannot even imagine how clever the Enemy is, and how stubbornly he pursues us, so as to bring us to grief. We must confront his influence in our lives.

Because he has influence in them. How can I be purified and enlightened until I admit to myself that all is not well in my own little spiritual garden? That I am a struggling Christian disciple—a small, mediocre, self-indulgent sinner of a disciple?

I need medicine. And the only medicine that can do me any good in this area is God’s holy truth. I don’t know everything that I need to know about that truth. Therefore, I must learn more. And my source of information? The Church.

Maybe this is the $100,000 question for Lent 2013: Should I assume that the Church, in Her wisdom, knows my business better than I do?

Obviously, there are plenty of people, some of whom get paid big money by the major networks, who would think that answering yes to such a question means you need psychiatric help. Assume, for the sake of any argument, that the Church knows my personal business better than I do?! What?

But if I don’t assume that Mother Church knows better, then aren’t I assuming that I know better than Mother Church? And how can I get myself purified if I assume that? How smart would it be for me to assume that I know better how to get some place I have never been, when I have a perfectly good GPS in my dashboard to help me? How smart would it be for me to assume that I know better how to treat some serious illness I have, when I could entrust myself to the care of a trained and knowledgeable doctor?

So, yes: I should assume that the Church knows my business better than I do. I can purify myself by studying Her teachings and conforming myself to them. But what if I don’t know the teachings I need to know?

Should I make an appointment with my priest, so I can go over my life as it is and make sure that I’m on the right track? But he is so busy! Maybe he has two parishes and a million things on his mind!

Let me tell you something. It’s not a problem. Most of us pastors still have a few years before we have to start thinking about retiring from our pastoral duties for reasons of age and infirmity.

If I had to keep office hours 24-hours-a-day, so that everyone can wake up on Easter Sunday morning living completely in harmony with the Church—if I had to do that, no problem. That’s what I am here for. I will gladly sit in my office all day and all night to keep moral-inventory appointments with all of my beloved flock. If that’s what it takes to help everyone get totally straight and good with the Church.

2 thoughts on “Lenten Purification and Enlightenment

  1. Father Mark,

    How about the day someone first said, “I came becuase of you.” Or even the first realization that you were a part of the larger effort within your Parish that brought people through the RCIA process. No, it’s not a pride point; but it surely evokes a heartfelt, “Yes!”, and a joy at the thought of sharing something so precious with someone else. [Mark 16:15]

    In God we trust.



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