Are you happy? Or, at least, happier? We’ve hit the halfway point of Lent—three weeks down, three weeks to go. That’s three weeks without whatever little pleasures we sacrificed for this penitential season. Three weeks deprived of coffee, or soda, or the snooze button on our alarms. Things that, we think, get us through the day. And yet, if we’re doing Lent right, this should leave us happier, not more miserable.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear from John the Evangelist, who tells us that when the light, who is Christ, came into the world, “people preferred darkness to light” (3:19). This is precisely the problem of our human condition—we often prefer the darkness to the light, the things of this world to the things of God. This disorder in our souls is the result of the Fall. Christ came to earth to heal this wound, “so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (3:16).
This season of Lent gives us the opportunity to reorder our souls. In giving up some of the goods of this world, we are drawn to the light. At this halfway point in the Lenten season, we are hopefully beginning to see the fruits of our sacrifices. After three weeks, some of the growing pains of Lent are over. Our mornings may no longer be miserable attempts to keep ourselves from going back to bed, but instead provide an extra fifteen minutes of prayer. Our now caffeine-free lives are no longer headache inducing, but instead rejuvenating, because we’ve been getting to bed an hour earlier.
In turning from the darkness of excessive attachment to the good things of this world to the truly good things of heaven, we find the light for which we are constantly searching. We come to realize that we do not, in fact, prefer the darkness to the light. We come to know that through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, we have been saved from that darkness, and in Him we find the light. This is the light for whom we were made, the light which shines in the darkness and which the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5).
Three more weeks. That’s all the time that’s left until we can hit snooze once again, or brew a nice hot cup of coffee, this time with a renewed Easter joy. Or perhaps in the next three weeks, we will come to see that maybe we don’t need those things to see the light after all.
“Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Is. 2:5).
Image: Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy, The Great Compline on Wednesday of the first week of Lent (CC BY-ND 2.0)