Our smeared heads on Ash Wednesday acted as an alarm. Like a deafening warning bell, Holy Church screamed into our souls to shake off our spiritual torpor. Like a sharp slap across the face, she reminds us what we are: “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return”. We think we are little gods unto ourselves, making up our own rules, honing exquisite excuses for our sins, fashioning handsome rationales for our sloth. Wake up! The Church demands it. Recognize that all those evasions are fantasies, no different than Alice falling through the Looking Glass.
Lent is Forty Days of a serious return to Christ Crucified. Of course, there should never be a time when we are not keeping Him company on Calvary. But life has its ways of distracting us. Life is a series of returns to God: falls, then struggles to rise once more. Again and again, coming to our senses like the Prodigal Son. Why did our mighty Savior fall three times on the way to Calvary? To show us we would, too. And more times than three. But always, like Our Savior, we must begin again. Eliot wrote in The Four Quartets that our lives are “distracted from distraction by distraction”. Life is that kind of endless cycle for all of us. Lent comes to set us free. Lent’s graces shoot us directly into Our Lord’s pierced Sacred Heart.
So embark earnestly upon your fasts and self-denials, your Stations of the Cross, and meditations upon the Sacred Passion. Yes, the world will think you odd. Even some Catholics. But that has been the complaint since Good Friday. Someday, they will understand. And it will be on account of you.