The theme we have chosen for our diocesan observance Lent, “Look within,” invites and challenges us to look within ourselves to find where in our lives we need the light of Christ.
Lent calls us to “metanoia,” a deep down change of heart. This takes courage and a deep commitment to honestly face ourselves, to regard both our blessings and our struggles.
Robert Coles, the famous Harvard psychologist, struggled with the gnawing question, “How can I live a truly moral life?”
He suggested that each of us – no matter what our state in life – needs from time to time to do some soul searching, exploring the nooks and crannies of our lives, to see what might be lurking there.
This looking within can be frightening, but it is a look well worth taking.
Many years ago on a visit to the Holy Land, I took advantage of some free time to visit Sharm el-Sheikh, a beautiful resort community on the Red Sea.
I was invited to go snorkeling, something I had never tried.
Even though I am not a good swimmer (an understatement), I wanted to see what was happening beneath the surface. The mystery of what might be there both excited and scared me, but my desire to see what was there won out over my fear.
As I placed my head under the water, almost hyperventilating through the snorkel, I saw a magnificent school of brightly colored fish swimming all around me.
I saw living coral glittering with beautiful hues of varied colors. I tried to navigate around these underwater mountains, so intriguing in their shape and color. I was warned not to rub against the coral. It could irritate or cut the skin. Yet, their beauty attracted me.
I also saw menacing looking creatures swimming in and out of the coral. I stayed clear, not knowing if they were as dangerous as they looked or were harmless.
I suspect that looking within – soul searching – can be similar to what I experienced when I went snorkeling for the first time.
As you begin to look within, submerging deep into yourself, you will encounter some delights and some dangers, some lights and some shadows.
Lent invites us to come to a deeper sense of ourselves, to take an honest look within at who we are so that we might give thanks for our gifts and seek the grace of God to help and heal us in our failings.
When I have looked within, I have found some qualities in me that make me feel good: a desire to help others, a longing to grow closer to the Lord, sensitivity to the pain of others.
These are gifts for which I can give thanks. They are blessings for which I am grateful.
As you look within this Lent, do not fail to see the virtues, the good and the beautiful, that are within you. We sometimes can be so overwhelmed by our failings and our sinfulness that we fail to see the good the Lord places in each one of us. We fail to see this good as gifts for which to be grateful.
Looking within this Lent also provides us the opportunity to identify and address our failings
We do our looking within and soul searching in the examination of conscience before we bring to the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation our humble request for pardon and our desire to change. This Sacrament is a gift given to us so that we can access God’s grace in our efforts to be better disciples of Christ.
I also have discovered in my experiences of looking within some selfishness and a need to be recognized as if I am the only fish in the sea. You, too, may discover areas in your life that disappoint and sadden you.
Yet, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we encounter the compassionate Christ who consoled the woman caught in adultery, who called the tax collector to be His disciple, who invited the good thief to join him in Paradise.
We all need Lent. We all need to look within. Do not be afraid. Our God is running down the road to embrace his Prodigal Son, his Prodigal Daughter. He prepares a feast for us when we return home. He is waiting for us.
Look within this Lent.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.