Some years ago, Pope Benedict offered a brief reflection on the meaning of Lent that I think it is good for all of us to ponder. He said, “Last Wednesday, with the fast and the rite of ashes, we entered into Lent. But what does it mean to ‘enter into Lent’? It means to enter into a time of particular commitment in the spiritual combat that opposes us to the evil present in the world, in each one of us and around us. It means to look evil in the face and dispose oneself to fight against its effects, above all against its causes, right up to its ultimate cause, Satan. It means not unloading the problem of evil onto others, onto society, onto God, but recognizing one’s own responsibility and consciously taking it upon oneself. In this regard, Jesus’ invitation to everyone to take up the cross and follow him in humility and confidence resounds more urgently than ever. Entering into Lent therefore means renewing the personal and communal decision to face evil together with Christ. The way of the cross is in fact the only way that leads to the victory of love over hate, of sharing over egoism, of peace over violence.” The Holy Father encourages each one of us to see our personal obligation to resist evil wherever it is found in our own lives. That process begins by the honest searching of our own hearts and lives to identify what might be there that stands in opposition to the reign of God. Such self scrutiny is difficult and sometimes not pleasant. But such honesty is absolutely required if we are to rid ourselves of evil. If we refuse to admit our particular selfishness or lustfulness or drive for vengeance, how will we ever be able to change? We can only change with God’s grace. But we can’t call upon that grace if we don’t even admit we need it. It’s not too late to begin openly and honestly searching our hearts for the truth of who we really are.
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