St. Oscar Romero said, “Aspire not to have more, but to be more.” These powerful words provide the perfect framework for a conversion oriented Lenten experience. God is giving us this Lenten sign to stop being concerned about what you have and focus on who you are. This requires that we create a desert space and listen more attentively for God to reveal His presence. It is all so wonderfully simple on the one hand and so incredibly challenging on the other. The message is simple: love God, neighbor, and self. Those simple words make great sense, but we struggle translating them into reality. Our attachments, compulsions, obsessions, addictions, routines, and busyness all anchor us to the “idol of the self,” keeping us mired in our compulsive need for self-aggrandizement. It’s not about us!
God vowed, long ago, to nurture, sustain and protect the relationship He has with His people. He called us into being, nurtures us in being, and sustains us in being. Without the Loving Divine Presence, all life would cease. Once we slow down a bit and clear away some of the clutter, we can see how the journey of our life is unfolding. We can see what brings us in and out of tune with God’s love and how we can better imitate God’s loving fidelity in our relationship with Him. In short, we will see our myopic short-sightedness and figure out how we can better share the Divine Fire within with others.
Lent isn’t just about giving stuff up for forty days and indulging again at Easter. We need to push things much farther and wrestle with the question of how we can be more. “Being more” means becoming more fully alive and in touch with the holiness of life and the divinity that lives in and empowers all beings and things. It is realizing that the “quality” of our presence is crucial to being an effective witness and herald of God’s unconditional love.
The illusion we have bought into causes us to believe that the wrong things and systems matter. We tirelessly fight to keep things the way they are, to return to the former ways of doing things or restore some nostalgic fantasy memory of “life in the good old days.” Lent isn’t about maintaining what we have or returning to something that is gone. It’s about becoming something new. It’s about being more focused, centered, convicted, and grounded so that we can be a person who truly loves and treasures being made in the image of God. The secret to Gospel living is not found in accumulating anything for ourselves, even merit points for heaven. Gospel living means learning how to live with less so that others can live with more. The thought of permanently giving something up makes us feel uncomfortable. Truth often does.