by Kathleen Beckman
Lent’s forty days of prayer and fasting offer a process of healing and liberation. In Lent we place ourselves nearer to the suffering servant, Jesus Christ. We ponder the Redeemer’s suffering. We remember that Christ’s Passion sanctified all human suffering. We relate to His pain because we are touched by the corporate weight of sin and evil in the world. It rubs against us in ordinary life. The Christian is called to push back the tsunami of sin and evil.
Demons are liars and not to be listened to but as Fr. Bamonte, a Rome exorcist, teaches, there are times when, in the midst of the rite of exorcism, a demon is forced by God to say something absolutely true to glorify the Father and torment the demon.
We were praying the rosary silently as the mandated priest began to pray from the “Rite”. Suddenly a guttural voice burst forth from the tormented person, “I hate Lent! We hate Lent! You believers do what you’re supposed to do! Hate!”
Why does Lent pose a real threat to the kingdom of darkness? It’s focus is on prayer, penance and almsgiving. This foundational tripod has the intentional purpose of formation for Love. We attempt to reorder our lives to the Gospel.
Through His suffering, Christ enters into our hearts anew; into that part of us that longs for encounter and healing. On the Cross, divine love is revealed. His Passion, the bridge to Easter, tenderizes our heart; challenges our mind. The Paschal mystery is a unique love story; it’s our story. It’s personal. Christ saw you and me from the Cross. With our sin we echo, “Crucify Him”.
Christ freely gives his life to save us. The demons hate Lent because the faithful remember our dignity in light of His passion. We recall the price He paid to heal and liberate us. Calvary is a matter of life and death. Through His wounds we receive healing as understood in scripture, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).”
Seven Keys to Healing Liberation
“Stay awake, alert”, scripture tells us. Lent invites us to keen awareness of God’s abiding presence. We examine our consciousness, and conscience to repent and gain freedom to know, love and serve God. We are always aware of what or who we love. Once I heard a priest retreat master challenge the audience of clergy, “Fathers, if you are not aware of the angelic presence that is filling this room presently, then your spiritual antenna is not tuned in.”
Awareness of the spiritual realm allows us to live in the mystical presence of the Trinity, angels and saints. Awareness of the truth strengthens us to shun the devil. Take responsibility in caring for your soul. We have an enemy who plots against our awareness of God because he is jealous above all.
During Lent the Church intentionally increases opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession is one of two sacraments categorized as “healing”. Accountability to a confessor is healthy for the soul, offering relief from shame and guilt, releasing the weight of sin-sickness. Confession is a healing encounter with Christ who quickly embraces us with His tender mercies.
In Biblical stories of healing, note how Christ requires the afflicted person to be accountable for his sins first. Spouses are accountable to one another, and children, to their parents. Such accountability forms a powerful spiritual hedge of protection in families. The demons tempt us to selfish independence and secret indulgences. First, we should own up to what we have done or failed to do; and then we let it go into the ocean of mercy —confession.
The Paschal mystery is the revelation of Trinitarian love. Inexhaustible is the contemplation of the Father’s revelation in His Son Jesus. During Lent we can grow deeper in love with God and more able to imitate Christ’s life.
What does this look like? Think of the saints of recent history, St. John Paul II and St Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Transformed by the revelation of God, they mirrored His inner beauty, dignity and virtue so powerfully that it was undeniably perceptible to others, even nonbelievers. Their transformation into Christ compelled their service to the Church and culture beginning with the poorest. Saints change everything for the good. They are a revelation of the heroic capacity of the human person transformed into Christ.
God never ceases to reveal Himself to us in all ages. What does your life reveal about God?
Lent is a time to offer reparation for the sins of the world. In Roman Catholic tradition, an act of reparation is a prayer or devotion with the intent to expiate the “sins of others”, e.g. for the repair of the sin of blasphemy, or the sufferings of Jesus Christ. The opportunity to offer reparation on behalf of the sins of others is a powerful act of mercy. If I can offer to God my act of reparation for the sins of any family (mine included), it is a privilege to do so. If you have loved ones living who left the Church (who doesn’t?), you can offer reparation to the heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart never ceases to be pierced by our sin. The evil spirits will tempt and discourage you away from offering reparation. Resist and they will flee.
Lenten practices encourage us to simplify our lives. Most of us strive for increased austerity during the 40 days of penitential practice. Prayer simplifies the heart. Fasting purifies the soul. Almsgiving magnifies the Lord. Interior and exterior simplicity exemplifies purity of heart. To be content with less is to make more room for God. We can ponder Mother Mary’s simplicity to see it’s genius and beauty. Even during her Son’s Passion, Mary models the simplicity of desiring only God’s will. Anyone who’s read the C.S. Lewis classic, The Screwtape Letters (a good lesson on spiritual warfare), learns how the evil spirits try to complicate our lives to distract us away from God.
The Catholic concept of “obedience of faith” is key. The Catechism explains,
By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God. With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, ‘the obedience of faith.’
Obedience is a willed response to faith in God. We obey because we believe and love our Creator. One third of the angels were cast out of Heaven because they decided to disobey, and rebel against God’s will. During exorcisms, we witness how very legalistic the demons are. Obedience is a protective armor. Scripture reveals that God loves obedience. Obedience of faith is sometimes difficult but grace makes it very possible.
Humility is truth; the moral virtue that prevents a person from reaching beyond himself. Pride does the opposite. Adam and Eve demonstrate pride through their disobedience in the Garden. Humility restrains the unruly desire for selfish greatness and lead us to true esteem with respect to God and others. Religious humility recognizes one’s total dependence on God. Moral humility recognizes one’s creaturely equality with others. Humility is not only the opposite of pride. It’s opposed to immoderate self-abjection, which fails to recognize God’s gifts and use them according to his will. Humility in Latin means humus, or ground.
Lent affords a special opportunity to consider Christ’s humility and imitate it. Pride can hide in corners of our heart. On Ash Wednesday the Church reminds us, “You are dust”. I remind myself often that I am dust, but I’m aware that His Blood has sanctified, saved and healed the dust that I am.
How does Lent lead to healing? Accompanying Christ into the tomb, we arise with Him on Easter, a new creation.
Reprinted with the kind permission of Catholic Exchange.
Kathleen Beckman is our speaker for our Benedicta Leadership Enrichment Seminars and Women of Grace® retreats to be held in Lafayette, Louisiana from June 20-23 and Albuquerque, New Mexico from August 1-4. Click here for more information on these exciting events!