Withdrawal Symptoms

Three days into this Lenten journey and, I must admit, that I have already felt a certain uneasiness come over me. A feeling of being sort of lost; of anxiety about my Lenten choices; a low-grade hopelessness at my ability to follow through with my Lenten exercises. It feels almost as if I have withdrawal symptoms from my normal life. And that is exactly what these feelings are, withdrawal symptoms.  I am being hit with the realization that I am trying to change my ‘comfortable’ faith life to an honest faith life, one that has a deeper relationship with God.

Every year I know going into Lent that it would entail struggles – but what I expect and what I encounter is never the same. Though not pleasant; these struggles are necessary.  Our Lenten exercises are a cleansing, a purgation of the barriers that keep us from being in a true relationship with God; it is our participation in what St. Paul wrote to the  Galatians ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me[1]

My brothers and sisters, this angst, which we can feel during Lent, about our choices and our ability to fulfill them is part of the cleansing.  It is necessary; if we don’t have these moments of doubt and despair than it probably is a good sign that our Lenten exercises aren’t at the level needed to help us. These exercises and our feelings are, in a small way, our participation with Christ with what He went through in the Garden of Gethsemane – ‘the disciple is not above the master[2]. Again, these Lenten exercises that we have started should be hard exercises; aside from our own reluctance to remove these obstacles; we can be sure that the evil one is pressing us hard to not succeed.  The words of St. John the Baptist though inspirational are tough to follow:  ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.[3] These are not words of pleasure but of tough work and constant struggle.

Friends, let’s not give in to our weaknesses when we start to feel the angst of withdrawal from our comfortable lives.  Let’s place in front us the goal, God.  Let’s drop to our knees when these feelings flow over us and ask our Lord for the healing salve that the Holy Spirit can give us; so that when the wave passes we are still on the path of purgation and healing that leads to eternal joy.

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[1] Galatians 2:20
[2] St. Josemaría Escrivá – The Way #699
[3] John 3:30 (RSV)

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