Lent is a time to step back from our business to reflect on our lives. Now that we’re 75% of the way into Lent, however, I believe it is a suitable time to step back from Lent itself, to reflect, and to question why. Why must we reflect on the purpose of Lent?
The answer is simple: to remind ourselves of who we are and where we fall in God’s plan. At the beginning of the season, we wear ashes on our foreheads, with the reminder that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gn 3:19, NABRE). But in addition to remembering our sins and our lowly nature in comparison to God, we must also recall the purpose of our lives, and why we were made at all. Today’s reading outlines the purpose of our lives as two major actions: knowing Christ and loving Christ.
To know Christ is to acknowledge Him for who He truly is: our Lord and Savior. This is demonstrated in the best possible way by St. Peter, who bravely announces Christ to be the Messiah despite the conflicting ideas of so many others. While society around us calls Jesus merely a good moral teacher or simply an ordinary man made out to be much more by his disciples, we are called like Peter to say, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” and to believe it.
As a byproduct of knowing and believing that Christ is the Messiah, we are called to love Him as He loved us. He gave everything to us, and we are called to return this sacrifice by giving our whole selves to Him. In the “Conditions of Discipleship” within the reading, we clearly see that Jesus calls us to do exactly that—to give one’s life for His sake. After all, He gave His life for us, not only spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, but physically as well.
We may not be called to physically give our lives for Christ, as so many martyrs have before us. Nevertheless, we are called to give our lives in our own unique ways, purely based on our own diverse gifts and talents. If we really believe that Christ is the Son of the Living God, and fully implement that in our lives right now, how might we see immediate change? Despite the sacrifices and reflection of the Lenten season, is there still something holding us back from fully centering our lives around this truth?
Today, tomorrow, for the rest of Lent, and for the rest of our lives, we must never forget our true purpose: to know and love God. We must use this knowledge and love to make the changes necessary in our lives to fully conform ourselves to God. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.”
Kevin Kearns ’20 is a sophomore in Eliot.