Two weeks ago our foreheads were smeared with cross-shaped ash, showing our neighbors and reminding ourselves that we hope to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” When we set off on this Lenten journey, many of us chose something that we thought kept us from living Gospel, and we vowed to turn away from it for the Lenten season. Now that we’re two weeks into this vow, let’s reassess:
Have I watched Netflix yet?
Have I volunteered?
How many times have I checked my facebook today?
Have I prayed at all in the past two weeks?
Have I dropped any change into my rice bowl?
If you’re like me, you started Lent with the best of intentions. You wanted to be the most pious, the most focused, the most charitable, the best that you could possibly be. And, if you’re like me, you haven’t been doing as well as you’d hoped. Every year I make a promise to myself to either avoid something that keeps me from being my best self or to add something that enriches my faith life, and it seems like every year I forget or get stuck a few weeks in. It’s only forty days—how could I keep messing up?
Pope Francis has declared that this year is the Year of Mercy. Google defines mercy as “compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” Oftentimes when we think of mercy, we consider the ways in which we can be more merciful towards others—more loving, more compassionate, more caring. But have you stopped to consider what it would mean show yourself more mercy? What would it look like to avoid negative self-talk when we think we fall short, instead choosing to turn inward with love and compassion?
What better time than the Year of Mercy to practice pointing mercy inward? During this Lenten season, may our prayer be that when we fail to keep promises to ourselves—when we stumble in our Lenten sacrifices—we may stand up again and continue walking along the journey. Jesus can be our model for this—when he stumbled and fell on the path to Calvary, he rose and continued his journey ahead. May we learn from Jesus, the model of mercy, how to show the same compassion to ourselves during this Lenten season.