The Link Between Lent and Confession—by Guest Blogger William Hemsworth

On March 6 we celebrated Ash Wednesday.  That great day marks the beginning for the season of Lent.  For some Lent is a season that brings to mind drudgery and self deprecation, but is this what Lent is all about?  Is it about us merely giving something up, or is there much more to it?  Lent reminds us that spiritual warfare is real.  It is a call to arms in which we latch on to Jesus and head into battle.  We are not alone in this fight.  We have the communion of saints and our Lord Jesus Christ by our side.

Perhaps we should start with what Lent is not.  Lent is not a time to give up something in an attempt to be fashionable.  Many give up a favorite food or desert and call it a day.  The whole point of giving up something is to replace it with a spiritual practice.  What spiritual practice you take up is totally up to you.  Maybe you find yourself too busy to pray.  As a result, you may wake up 10 minutes early to pray to replace the 10 minutes you take eating your favorite candy bar.  My wife recently gave up Starbucks, and she has chosen to take the money she would normally spend and give it to the St. Vincent De Paul Society at our parish.  You may choose to take time throughout the day and pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  As previously stated, that is up to you and what you feel called to do.  However, fasting without prayer is merely dieting.  If you are obtaining or fasting, but not praying you are dieting.

Lent is an ancient practice that goes back to the earliest days of the church. In Luke 4:1-2 we read “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished” (NRSV).  I was always intrigued as to why the sinless and divine Son of God went into the wilderness to be tempted.  This is something that Jesus did to prepare himself for ministry.  He was at his weakest after fasting for so long, and Satan knew that this may be his only chance.  Jesus did this as an example for us.  He knows how we are tempted because he experienced it first hand.  

If Jesus was tempted, do we think we are somehow exempt?  I certainly hope not, but as our Good Shepherd he is leading the way through danger.  By doing so he is stating that he is with us and beside us on this tough journey.  If you are a follower of Christ the evil one will come after you.  That is a guarantee.  We will get beat up at times, but we must get back up and dust ourselves off.

When I was in the military, we were taught to always keep your equipment in top condition.  Whether it was out Kevlar helmet, rucksack, or weapon everything had to be maintained.  Lent reminds us that there is more to life than the things of this world.  It is a time to reflect and evaluate our equipment.  

In the spiritual life our equipment is our mind and hearts.  What are they preoccupied with?  What filth have they accumulated over the past year?  A weapon will not work if it is grungy and filthy.  Likewise, our souls get dirty from venial sin.  If we become complacent with venial sin it is much easier to fall into mortal sin.  Regarding this 1 John 5:17 states, “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal” (NRSV).  Mortal sin severs our relationship with God.  Essentially, we have made our choice, and it wasn’t God.

There is hope.  The hope is Jesus Christ and the sacraments that he established.  As previously stated, Lent is a time to reevaluate our spiritual lives.  It is a time to reflect on the things we have done and not done.  We all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23).  This does not mean that God does not want us anymore.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  

Our Lord has established the sacrament of reconciliation so we can once again be in fellowship with him.  The great church father St. John Chrysostom put it this way, “And though every day a man lives may rightly be a day of repentance, yet is it in these days more becoming, more appropriate, to confess our sins, to fast, and to give alms to the poor; since in these days you may wash clean the sins of the whole year”.

The evil once tries to tempt us in our weakness, just like he tried to tempt our Lord.  A lion attacks the member of heard that is sick, weak, and alone.  Satan tries to do the same thing.  He will try to make us feel alone and like we are too messed up to be reconciled to God.  That is one of his greatest lies.  Jesus wants you!  In the sacrament of confession, we are absolved over the sins that we have committed, both venial and mortal.  We have a clean slate and are once again reconciled with the church (in the case of mortal sin).  

Partaking of the great, and underutilized sacrament, assists us by strengthening our resolves against Satan and his temptations.  It is a crucial weapon in our daily spiritual warfare.  Without it we are taking a knife to a gunfight.  A few months ago a priest told me “Take advantage of the sacraments.  They are there to help us.  A priest will make the time.”  I implore you to make the sacrament of confession a key part of your Lenten journey this year.  Go during scheduled times, make an appointment, and make the time to make a good confession.  You will be happy that you did.  There is nothing greater than the love of God, and we feel it especially after He forgives us.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!

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A Plea to God for Help from a Soul Suffering from Depression

O Almighty God, implore your aid in my time of desperation. All hope seems lost. My gaze and thoughts have became narrowed– only able to see the trials and tribulations that give me fits. The Enemy has jumped this season of suffering as an opportunity to lead me astray.

All my thoughts spiral out of control into a maze of misery and depression. Feeling no comfort and consolation at this time I experience vulnerability. My hope is always going to be in you my Lord. The weak creature that I am humbly asks for the consoling presence of the Holy Spirit. God you are my only source of strength, stability, and peace in this life! I know this to be true even as I attempt to fend off the onslaught of the Enemy. Please have mercy on me and forgive me of my doubts during this spiritual dearth.

–A soul suffering from depression

Reflections on Blessed John Henry Newman’s Lenten Sermon

Sermons

According to the English Catholic priest-cardinal John Henry Newman, “Growth is the only evidence of life.” Life is then most apparent in the springtime with the bursting and budding of flowers, trees, and whistling of birds. Winter precedes this era of new life. Is it not interesting that within nature newness of life springs forth from the cold, dark, dreariness of the death of winter? Currently, we live in a time of transition—March, the chimeric month whereby it begins calmly like a lamb and ends ferociously like a lion or vice versa! I do not think it is a coincidence that the Holy Spirit guided the Early Church, and sustained the ekklesia through the ages to place Lent during the lowest point (CLIMATICALLY SPEAKING) of the calendar year!

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Lent is a time of wandering in the hope it leads to the wonderment of Easter Sunday. Blessed John Henry Newman began his Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent with this key reminder, “The season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness.” When you actually think about it, wintertime can be a source of humiliation as well.

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Tired from the lack of sunlight and seemingly endless shoveling you may oversleep your alarm clock and rush out the door to work. In that panic of celerity you may have slipped on a patch of ice and fell quickly on your butt— all the while your careful neighbors gaze at you! Well, this actually happened to me, except instead it happened in the busy parking lot of a grocery store! I felt quite foolish and embarrassed. Our 40 day sojourn in the “desert” is a call to unite ourselves in prayer and fasting to Christ’s ultimate humiliation—His violent death on the Cross.

Here is an excerpt from Newman’s Lenten Homily:

For what we know, Christ’s temptation is but the fulness of that which, in its degree, and according to our infirmities and corruptions, takes place in all His servants who seek Him. And if so, this surely was a strong reason for the Church’s associating our season of humiliation with Christ’s sojourn in the wilderness, that we might not be left to our own thoughts, and, as it were, “with the wild beasts,” and thereupon despond when we afflict {10} ourselves; but might feel that we are what we really are, not bondmen of Satan, and children of wrath, hopelessly groaning under our burden, confessing it, and crying out, “O wretched man!” but sinners indeed, and sinners afflicting themselves, and doing penance for sin; but withal God’s children, in whom repentance is fruitful, and who, while they abase themselves are exalted, and at the very time that they are throwing themselves at the foot of the Cross, are still Christ’s soldiers, sword in hand, fighting a generous warfare, and knowing that they have that in them, and upon them, which devils tremble at, and flee. 

Again, the holy priest guides us to focus on Lent as a time to link our personal embarrassment with Jesus’ humble time in the desert. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son Jesus. As a model and giver of hope for humanity, Jesus endured human things like hunger, thirst, and temptation. The only difference between Christ and us is that He never, ever succumbed to the wiles of the Devil. Blessed Cardinal Newman reminds us to humble ourselves before the foot of the Cross.

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May we endure the harsh realities of this wintery world through the refreshing oases of the sacraments this Lenten season. To read Blessed John Henry Newman’s entire Lenten Sermon click on this link: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/parochial/volume6/sermon1.html#note