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Lay Perspective: Lent’s theme, I’m a sinner

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Greg Hartman

I’m a sinner. That’s the theme of every Lent. I’m a sinner. I have failed. I have fallen. I can go into “reasons.” I can justify my sin. I can say “Well, I wasn’t so bad, at least I’m not like dude down the street.” I can rank order the Ten Commandments and soften the sin in my own mind.

A 1960s comedian, Flip Wilson, always did the bit of “the devil made me do it.” The church has precepts, but I can ignore them or cherry pick what I believe because of my extensive knowledge since, hey, I’ve been around for more 50 out of 2,000 years, so I know better. In the end, I’m a sinner.

I’m not as brilliant or mysterious as I think I am. The church has so much to offer us “sinners.” The church places Lent, at least on the northern side of the equator, at a time we can parallel our lives with the physical environment around us. It can be wonderful one day, lousy the next, so-so on others. It’s stormy, cloudy and sunny, much like our very own lives. It’s a time for impatience for some: let’s get going with spring, and warm weather! We count down to the opening day of baseball season and as the numbered day gets smaller, it seems it’ll never get here. We have to wait and endure. In the physical world and the spiritual realm, Lent is a time to deeply look within ourselves in an honest, no excuse, no holds barred reflection of whom we are and what is the person we want to be.

The Gospel states that Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the desert. It would be nice to take a 40 day break away from everyone, but that isn’t a reality in our society. Imagine telling the boss, “I’m heading for the desert for 40 days, see ya!” So we don’t get 40 days, but during Lent we can take 40 hours (an hour a day) or 40 minutes a day. In the TV game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” (the older version) you received lifelines: phone a friend, ask the audience and the 50-50. The church has some some great lifelines to assist us sinners.

Not too long ago on my journey, I didn’t pray to our Blessed Mother that much, other than to ask, “Hey Mary, is Jesus home?” Through the years I have found a treasure in the rosary. The rosary is a great lifeline for prayer and reflection. In our time of entertainment at your fingertips, the rosary seems a bit archaic and out of step with today’s world. That’s exactly the wonder of the rosary: it is a way to slow down and reflect. You can even find apps for it! Search “rosary” on Google and you can download the virtual rosary. When you immerse yourself in the mysteries of the rosary: joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and luminous, you can build a foundation of who we are as Catholics. The prayer at the end sums up these mysteries: “to imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise,” which can give us that lifeline we need to get through every day life. In this Year of Faith, the rosary is also a connection to the past or a pillar of what our faith is all about.

The Way of the Cross is another wonderful way to walk with Christ and to have a better understanding of living a life in Christ. During the Way of the Cross, Jesus falls three times. We fall through sin, through physical weakness or simply not paying attention. You know when you’re walking and that stone you tripped on grabbed your foot! The Way of the Cross is also a way to be with the community as we work our way toward salvation. During Lent, many parishes have the Way of the Cross at least once a week and it is a treasured journey, another lifeline we can grab onto, another opportunity for sinners.

I’m a sinner, but hopefully we can hold on to those lifelines the church has to offer through the rosary and Way of the Cross and shed that way of sin in true repentance. In this Year of Faith, we can rediscover the treasures the church has in these centuries old reflections.

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Hartman is the circulation manager for The Catholic Telegraph

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