Lent is season to change sinful patterns

Lydia Cristini

WORD MADE FLESH

First Sunday of Lent – February 22, 2015
Genesis 9.8-15 | Psalm 25 | 1 Peter 3.18-22 | Mark 1.12-15
February 9, 2015

I think it was Father David Bittner who explained "covenant" in a way I found easy to understand: an agreement or a contract, which makes the parties into family members. He used the example of the covenant of marriage, which makes formerly unrelated people into a family of two.

The Hebrew people entered a covenant with God almost 4,000 years ago and almost 2,000 of those years are mapped out in the Old Testament. God promises he will be their God, he frees them from slavery and he continually blesses them.

The Hebrews? They promise they will be his people, and they continually complain and are frequently unfaithful to him.

Then, it goes something like this (this may be a slight over-simplification of covenant history): God sends someone to remind them of the covenant; some awful consequence befalls them; they repent and turn back to him.

Christ was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. – 1 Peter 3.18

'Christ was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.'

1 Peter 3.18

After that, the whole thing starts all over. This all seems like a familiar pattern, somehow . . . oh right, this is the story of my life.

Because of this, I find discouragement to be a frequent challenge in the spiritual life.

How is it, after so many years of trying to follow Christ, I seem to fail in the exact same ways, over and over? Of course, there are many reasons for these repetitions and many ways to address these patterns, but one thing is essential: don't give up.

One of my favourite quotations from Pope Francis is something he said at his first Angelus on March 17, 2013: "The Lord never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness."

We often ascribe human qualities to God, which can sometimes be very accurate. After all, we are made in his image, and Jesus is fully human as well as fully divine.

However, sometimes the human qualities we give God are actually limitations. Just because any normal person would understandably get irritated by, and weary of, someone repeatedly asking for forgiveness for the same offence, it doesn't mean that God does.

God's love is beyond human reason and the psalmist reminds us of God's promise to "teach the humble his way." Moreover, Peter's First Letter reminds us "Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead [us] to God."

Lent gives me a chance to make commitments to try to change some of those sinful patterns in my life. But these commitments will bear fruit only if I come to God in humility, willing to be taught and led by Jesus, the new and eternal covenant.

As I will inevitably fail at some point, it will be helpful for me to remember that God wants me to be close to him even more than I do. And it will be helpful for me to do my best to trust in God's irrational forgiveness, ridiculous faithfulness, and illogical love.