Fired in the loving heart of Jesus the potter
Keep on working at the Lord’s work always, knowing that, in the Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain. 1 Corinthians 15 encourages us as we turn our thoughts to Lent which begins this week on Ash Wednesday.
Lent is the Lord’s work
Our plans concern what we might do, what we might renounce and how we might open ourselves to the grace of God this Lent. We are looking forward to a time of fruitful cooperation with the Lord in charge. We are preparing to put ourselves to school with Jesus. Our pre-Lent prayers and thoughts are about how to be good students of Christ in these coming weeks. We pray to persevere, to keep on working. Lent is much more than a endurance test but one of the Lenten graces is perseverance. Our perseverance will be Christ’s own perseverance.
Lent is a time of grace
As his disciples we allow ourselves to be incorporated in his mission. We are under Jesus’ command and will be part of his obedience and his constancy. There is a lot of trust in this shared commitment. We trust in our divine teacher. As we make plans for Lent we place our trust in one who will not only show us what we need to know but will also enable us to do what he commands. We look forward to a season of being more than usually submissive to the Lord’s guidance very confident of the good to which he will bring us.
Lent is a time for rebuilding our stock of goodness
In our entry into the Lenten season we will be drawing from the goodness which is in our heart. If this Lent will be for us a school of goodness, we will be building on graces reliably received and on good that is well-established in our heart. Yet we acknowledge that we are not always the best judges of the state of our own heart and soul. Our teacher Jesus Christ is completely trustworthy. We his students we are not so strong. Our worry about perseverance arises in part from an uneasy suspicion that our capital of goodness has become quite depleted. Our desire to keep a good Lent is a prompting of grace and a wholesome impulse. We do still have good impulses!
Lent is a time of repentance for sin
We entrust ourselves to the wise guide and teacher Jesus Christ. We are not the best judge in our own case. Quite often we see neither beam nor splinter. We are being enabled to transform the perishable into imperishability. At the end of Lent we will rise from the death of sin with Jesus as he strides out of the tomb.
Of what sins are we repenting this Lent? Part of our preparation is our acknowledgement that we don’t yet know all we need to know about our own sinfulness. We seek the grace to become aware of the sins which are concealed from us and to convert from those also. Complacent and obtuse we might have been up until now, but in these last days before Lent we want to see the beam in our eye and to allow it to be dislodged so that we may see clearly.
May the Lord enable us to know what we need to know for salvation. Our hope of perseverance is a trust that in the holy time of Lent we will be enabled to hold fast to what is necessary and good. May everything else fall away from us and cease to impede us.
Among our plans for Lent is our intention to pray more and better. Our listening to the Lord will be our prayer. Our following him more closely will arise out of obedience to his word and contemplation of his presence within us and around us. In our Lenten prayer God will be reaching out to us and with his grace we will be attentive and responsive.
There will be plenty of silence and receptivity in our prayer. Also some words. As well as listening to God we will speak to him. We will ask for his mercy. We will ask for his grace. We will share our life. Our words will flow out from what fills our heart.
In Lent we persevere in truthfulness as well as in humility and trust
In the days to come we will speak the truth to God and to our brothers and sisters. This too is God’s work. We pray not give up on truth.
In the days before Lent we make plans for the schooling of our heart by Jesus Christ. He will train us like a potter shaping clay. Jesus the potter will fire what he has shaped in the furnace of his own loving heart. From the kiln of Lent we will emerge useful for our place in God’s plan. We will be durable. We will be stronger through and through. We will be like the one who shapes us. In Holy Week and at Easter we will remember that Jesus had to pass through the refiner’s fire.
So let us thank God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter Gallagher SJ
Join the Jesuits’ Lent Retreat to help with your perseverance in prayer this Lent.