When most people think of Lent, if they know anything about it, they think of “Oh, that’s when you give up something for 40 days.” While this is partially true – part of Lent is abstinence and penance, which goes along with giving up something – the biggest part of Lent for me, especially this year, is preparation. As Christians, we are preparing for the life after this one, the life with God, the second coming of Christ. Lent is an especially important time of preparation, as we kind of go through a “cleansing” or “renewal”. In fact, at the Easter Vigil those that are baptized will renew their baptismal promises… and those who are not (like me, this year) will become baptized.
So during this preparation period, people like me (we are now called “The Elect” in the RCIA process) are getting ready to become one with the church and one with God through the sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion. Since we are not baptized, we don’t go to confession yet (the Rite of Reconciliation or Penance) – baptism forgives us of our prior sins. But obviously we don’t forget the life we lived before. Many of us that are converting, myself included, led a very different life in our past. Three weeks during Lent, called the Scrutinies, are meant for us to reflect on our past, reflect on our sins, and think… what is there, if anything, that is keeping me from growing in my relationship with God?
During the second scrutiny, the story of “The Man Born Blind” is told during Mass. I have heard the story quite a few times, even though I am not yet Catholic, but this year especially the story has hit home. Especially the homily that Father Steve shared with us.
Something you need to know about Father Steve – he is really into props. He brings a red backpack (or duffel bag, depending on the size of the prop) and pulls some sort of prop out of it each week for his homily. This week he pulled a rear-view mirror out of his red backpack, joking that he borrowed it from our music director’s vehicle. He told a story about how when he was learning to drive, his instructor criticized him for looking in the rear-view mirror. He was pulling toward the right side of the road and his instructor said “You can’t drive buried in your mirrors!” Father Steve related this to our lives. So many of us are living with our minds focused on the rear-view mirror – we are focused on our pasts, focused on our past sins, thinking “Oh if only I could go back and do that differently.” He encouraged us to get our heads out of the rear-view mirror and remember that we are forgiven! That there is absolutely nothing we can do in our lives that will make God love us any less… or any more for that matter. You can’t change the past, so get your head out of it and live for your future.
His homily hit home for me because during these scrutinies we are called to think of our past. And it is hard to not think, “Man, I wish I would have known better.” It is hard to think sometimes that God will forgive us for what we have done, because often times there are people who won’t forgive us. Especially ourselves… we have such a hard time forgiving ourselves, I know I do. So when he told us to stop looking in the rear-view mirror, it really rang true with me. I need to stop living in the past. It is important not to forget it, because our past really teaches us and helps us to become who we are, but what is truly important is how we live our lives going forward from here.