Throughout my years growing up in a Catholic family, I always looked forward to Lent. Kind of weird, I know. But I think it was because of all the traditions. I liked going to Stations of the Cross on Fridays, and watching the priest and altar servers walk from station to station, praying, kneeling, and chanting the Stabat Mater. It was 7:30 on a friday night, and the church was packed. Then we’d have cheese pizza in the church basement afterwards.
Faith was important in my family, and Lent represented it all: the promise of redemption and the knowledge that, though we screw up sometimes, God loves us more than we could ever imagine. Lent was a chance to get more serious about spirituality, say more rosaries, go to Mass, go to Confession, and remember how much God loves us.
A wise priest once told me that truth is important, but not more important than love. Sure, you have plenty of people who know all the ins and outs of theology, philosophy, and church history, but without love they truly are, as St. Paul said, “a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal”. Then there’s the other extreme, people who are so open and accepting that they don’t have the will or the desire to speak the truth when necessary. As they say (and this applies to both extremes), “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We cannot lose sight of the truth, but we cannot lose sight of love either. We need both.
That is what Lent means to me. Yes, we screw up. Yes, we should be better. But God loves us anyways, and is always there to forgive us. It’s not about how many times you mess up, or how bad you’ve been. It’s about the fact that God loves us so much that he was willing to become one of us, and suffer an excruciating death for the chance that we might love him back.