Lent: A Season of Renewal

Rosemary Agwuncha, Senior Anchor Intern

Ahh, the unofficial “Catholic New Year” is upon us, friends! Lent has arrived and it’s time for us to enter into the purifying period, a.k.a. the “40-day Good Friday,” am I right? One of my professors joked that this is how we often view the season of Lent. He articulated, however, that Lent is meant to be a time of baptismal renewal and for reconciliation with God and others. Our death and resurrection in Christ is meant to be what our thoughts and hearts are fixed upon. The fruit of these meditations are then meant to manifest in our increased attention to prayer, fasting, and works of love (or almsgiving).

“But seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  – Matthew 6:33

Now that you have a small glimpse of what my major in Theology has been about…let’s think about what this actually means in real life. I’ll share a little story.

The beginning of my final semester at Notre Dame has been off to an interesting start. I’m caught in a space of tension. Though I want to relish every moment with all the incredible people I have met over the past 3.5 years, I am also preparing for the infamous medical school application process. Let me just say, it’s hard out here y’all. I feel like I have a to-do list that will never end and there will never be enough time in the day to get caught up. Dramatic? Maybe.

The past month has honestly felt like a blur of non-stop movement, and I’m still super behind on a number of things. Honestly speaking, on many days I have reached the point of tiredness that makes me become more emotional than usual, then I frantically agonize over every tiny decision, and negative self-talk becomes louder than any other thoughts in my mind. This is the absolute perfect recipe for premium level stress and anxiety, folks.

Walking by faith: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” -Phil. 4:19

As a result of my current situation, I feel like I have taken many steps backward in my social life within the past four weeks. I sunk into the “you can only socialize on the weekend” and “if you’re not working or studying, you’re wasting time” mentality. I thought it would be so great to stay committed to “the grind” day in and day out, but it’s been extremely exhausting and not as fulfilling as I imagined.

I realized how much more draining my days have become in my attempts to avoid “unnecessary human interactions,” because as I sit before my work I start to realize how much I still crave these meaningful interactions. On top of that, my prayer has been less intentional and more “on-the-go.” As I toss up disjointed thoughts to God in bits and pieces, my heart is heavy with the burdens I haven’t truly laid before the feet of Jesus. During the past month, I have drastically narrowed my perspective on what is supposed to be meaningful in my life and what I make time for. Things obviously haven’t turned out as I intended them to so far.

The lack of community and intentionality that I imagined would spur me on towards greater productivity has, in fact, deprived me of so much of the energy that I need to persevere. Every bit of strength I have has been directed towards meeting deadlines, checking off items on an unending to-do list, and moving from one obligation to the next. Everything feels like a chore.

These pursuits of mine have honestly become idols and I have been sacrificing the most valuable possessions of time and my very self before them. I thought that I would receive blessings of joy and fulfillment for my earnest offerings, but I am realizing that these idols can’t offer me what I was seeking. They can’t reciprocate what I offer them or replenish me with anything meaningful. These idols will only continue to demand more of me and only be critical and denigrating when I don’t sacrifice enough for them. This then simply becomes a black hole of negativity that perpetuates self-violence.

Okay that was a bit bleak…but… devoid of an authentic relationship with God and with others, our lives don’t turn out to be as meaningful as we hope for them to be. I’m not advocating that we all become socialites who reject the notion that work or education has any value, but there’s a balance we should strive to maintain. Everything I do has to be rooted in love of God, neighbor, and self. I have to extend mercy towards myself and to others, just as God is unfailingly merciful towards me.

Yes, I will continue to strive to be diligent in order to accomplish my goals. However, the way I interact with God, myself, and others will definitely be more loving and more intentional because that’s how our lives ultimately find the most meaning. The Holy Trinity, in whose image we have been created, is love and relationship. We were made for relationship with God and with one another, this is something we cannot deny.

There are so many moments that the devil will try to steal my joy as well as my true identity in Christ away from me, but God is calling me in the season of Lent (and in every moment of every day) to remember that my hope and my joy are rooted in Him and Him alone.

I’m looking forward to this season of renewal and restoration of right relationship within the various dimensions of my life. Through greater attention to prayer, fasting from the things that are preventing my heart from loving God and others well, and intentional works of love, I will seek to entrust Jesus with more and more of my heart. All God wants is to love every part of my being – to fill every weak and broken place with His love and tender mercy. Jesus wants to restore the hope and joy that He won for me in His Resurrection.