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What? Holy Week already?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Apr 07, 2009

When Holy Week arrives, I always have the same feeling. "Wait, wait!" I want to say. "I'm not ready yet."

Maybe all Catholics have the same experience. Just after Ash Wednesday, it seems to me that Lent stretches out into the future forever. I live a comfortable life, and when I deny myself some of the usual comforts, I very soon feel the pinch. I get just a little bit hungry. I don't feel like getting up early to do some spiritual reading before Mass. I keep catching myself indulging that one unpleasant habit that I said I'd work on during Lent. I sure could use a beer. I start feeling sorry for myself-- poor me!-- and I wonder: Is Lent going to last forever?

But it doesn't. Just a few short weeks later I'm looking at things from the opposite perspective. I've nearly run out of time. I was really determined to transform myself during Lent this year: to make myself into a living saint. It hasn't happened yet-- not nearly. I need more time. Is Lent ending so soon?

It's the same sad story every year. I begin Lent with the best of intentions. Then the weeks quickly roll past, and things change. I can't sustain the same zealous attitude for 40 days. Oh, I keep to my resolutions, for the most part. I continue fasting, but my prayers aren't quite as fervent, my spirit of reparation weakens. I know that I need to rev up the penitential engine again, but the days slip by...

Then, suddenly-- Bam!-- time's up! It's Holy Week. Who could've seen that coming?

When I was younger, I would be surprised to recognize my own failure to live the penitential season fully. No longer. I know myself too well. I failed last year, and the year before, and the year before that, too. I'm not so dense that I can't spot a trend. 

But then, sometime during Holy Week, a second realization hits me. Of course I failed to transform myself! I can't do it. Never could, never can, never will. I need help. And help is on the way.

This year, that 2nd realization came early: during the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday. As Jesus prays in agony in Gethsemane, the disciples nod off to sleep. I can relate to that; it seems I was nodding all through this Lent. Then Jesus tells them: "It is enough; the hour has come." (Mk 14:41) He knows they are not ready-- they never will be-- but He is ready, and that's what matters.

I'm not ready for Good Friday. But Jesus is ready to mount the Cross for me. My annual failure is the 'happy fault' that makes me realize the necessity of his Sacrifice, and treasure the depth of his love.

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