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Pursuing holiness vs. reflecting love: a Lenten reflection


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Daniel Esparza - published on 03/06/24

The journey of faith is not about achieving personal perfection. It’s about an ongoing transformation fueled by love.

Lent is an introspective season. It is, first and foremost, a time to examine our hearts and minds and strengthen our decision to lead a proper life – a life we can call good. But in this pursuit of virtue, a subtle trap can lurk. We often end up focusing on ourselves and our own perfection, rather than on God’s grace and the suffering of others. This can be especially true when we track our progress in virtues such as charity, patience, or forgiveness.

Consider Jesus’ powerful words in Matthew 6, 3: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” The passage is, as is usually the case with Jesus, pretty radical. It is not necessarily about keeping your good works secret from others but, mainly, from yourself.

In other words, it refers to the inner motivation behind our good deeds. When we meticulously track our acts of charity, are we driven by genuine love for our neighbor, or by a desire to add to a tally?

Consider the Good Samaritan (Luke 10, 25-37). He didn’t stop to help the injured man because he needed to check off a “good deed” from some Lenten list. He acted out of compassion, his heart moved by the suffering before him.

Tracking our progress can become an exercise in pride. We may feel superior to others based on our perceived progress, or become discouraged when our “numbers” aren’t high enough. This self-absorption takes our focus away from the real goal: growing in love for God and neighbor.

We can always shift our focus. Instead of chasing virtues, spiritual masters from the past have always advised practicing active reflection. After an act of kindness, take a moment for quiet prayer. Thank God for the opportunity to serve and ask for continued guidance in living a Christ-like life.

Focus on the impact we had on others. Did our actions bring joy, comfort, or relief? Did they exemplify the teachings of Christ? This reflection allows us to celebrate God’s work in us while remaining grounded in humility.

Remember that the journey of faith is not about achieving personal perfection. It’s about an ongoing transformation, fueled by love, that allows us to better serve God and those around us. Let’s make this Lent a season of genuine care, not self-indulgence.

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