The time of preparation for Easter is always a time for reflection and open-ness to the movement of the Holy Spirit, but this Lent has been especially meaningful. In my second year as a parish priest, I am feeling stable enough to focus more deliberately on my spiritual life, as the spiritual father of the two communities to which I pastor, the love for my parishioners is better established – and their needs more apparent, and as a young Catholic man I am more aware of God’s call to holiness.
“I can’t do this anymore”
I spoke with someone recently conveyed this sentiment, and I think it sums up this year’s Lent. Don’t mistake me; this isn’t meant in the sense of giving up Lent! This is something better: an invitation to enter deeper into Lent.
Offline, I’ve shared with some of you my decision in September to finally get serious about weight loss. Over my time in seminary and through my priesthood, I had steadily put on weight. I couldn’t walk up my twelve or so stairs in the rectory without having to catch my breath at the top. Any kind of exertion was just out. It was the thought ‘I can’t do this anymore’ that prompted me to finally make the changes that have started me on a path toward better health and smaller vestments.
This Lent, the thought of ‘I can’t do this anymore’ has taken on a similarly significant place. My secretary was unexpectedly in need of some extended personal time -just before Ash Wednesday! My first ‘I can’t do this anymore’ prompted me to actually turn to God in prayer, instead of relying on my own stamina. My second ‘I can’t do this anymore’ has led me to see that not every call or e-mail can be answered in a week – and that God is really in charge of my parish, not me!
The Pope’s announcement before Ash Wednesday and resignation today seem to fit into this theme as well. How very clear is his ‘I can’t do this anymore’, as he acknowledges his own bodily weakness. His ‘I can’t do this anymore’ has led him to greater reliance on God in embracing prayer and meditation – and offers us an example to follow in our own lives, as well as for the Body of Christ.
It is a funny thing, to think that God allows us to go on trying to do the impossible. We spend so much time trying to achieve our goals by our own efforts. I imagine Him smiling at us, shaking His head with a bemused expression, waiting for us to realize that like a toddler in front of a basketball, we can’t carry things alone.
And the crazy thing is that we may actually achieve carrying our load on our own, to a degree – for a while. But we will suffer in the attempt, do it poorly and sacrifice other good things that God has for us in the attempt.
However, in our surrender of our own control and priorities, what is revealed is God’s great love for us, and the priorities He has that open our eyes to His great plan for us: our eternal joy.
What a great joy it is to let go of my own wants to discover that God wants to give me everything I need! And the amazing thing is that while there is still so much that I have to let go, that I have to admit ‘I can’t do this anymore’, there is nothing that He can’t do, nothing He won’t do for us once we surrender ourselves to His great love.