The season of Lent is a time of hope and renewal. We examine our interior spiritual lives, consider our imperfections, and work to improve on them. We commit to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These practices no doubt have a positive effect on the soul, but do they come to an end when the Gloria is sung at the Easter Vigil? If the answer is an unqualified “yes,” then maybe we’re missing the purpose of Lent. If deepening the interior life is only a temporary thing, then we are misunderstanding the Christian vocation.
The Christian vocation is a call to perfection, and our life here on earth should be a journey towards obtaining it. However, lasting progress on the road to perfection comes about by getting to the root of our imperfection which involves a change in our hearts. The transforming of our hearts by grace is what leads to a change in the interior life that is reflected in our outward actions. I once heard a wise priest say in regard to the interior life that “practice makes permanent.” In other words, the changes we make to our interior life will be sustained only when we recommit again and again to relying on God’s grace and not our own efforts alone.
There are many avenues that God provides for us that we might grow in the interior life and fulfill our Christian vocation. Prayer, meditation in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and increased devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary are all good places to start. Entering into the contemplative life through these and other practices, we begin to know and love God more, and thereby open ourselves to his saving help. He, if we let him, begins to transform our interior. In becoming aware of God’s grace moving within us, we are led, in turn, to know and love God even more.
Throughout our life here on earth we will no doubt often fall short of Christ’s expectations. We are in a state of fallen nature (an imperfect state), but that doesn’t mean we can’t work towards the perfected one. In fact, we must work towards perfection: the Christian vocation consists in nothing less than this. Grace perfects our human nature. It is the Lord who perfects us. So let us turn more intentionally to the Lord this Lent, that he may bring about a more sustained change in our interior life, and the fulfilling of our Christian vocation … even past the enunciation of those first Easter alleluias.
Image: Caravaggio, Saint Francis in Meditation