Falling down in our Lenten resolve can cause some people to collapse and give up. This is why our Lenten discipline is ongoing: over time we learn to govern our appetites, examine our consciences, do penance and learn the habits that are virtues. Failures can teach us something important about ourselves, even though what we learn can be unpleasant. The recognition of failures can incline us to call with humble confidence upon the mercy of Christ who, while a divine person, was also fully human and experienced temptation and suffering.
The Collect for the Third Sunday of Lent in the Ordinary Form has rich vocabulary which pertains to our use of Lent: “Deus, omnium misericordiarum et totius bonitatis auctor, qui peccatorum remedia in ieiuniis, orationibus et eleemosynis demonstrasti, hanc humilitatis nostrae confessionem propitius intuere, ut, qui inclinamur conscientia nostra, tua semper misericordia sublevemur.”
Current ICEL translation: “O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving have shown us a remedy for sin, look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy.”
Space doesn’t allow us here to look into the vocabulary, but we can take a cue from sublevo, which is “to lift up, support; console; lessen an evil”. In our Collect we beg God to pick us back up, dust us off, and help us stay upright for the rest of the hard Lenten march (sublevemur).
Speaking of falling, there is a moment in the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ when Our Lord falls under the Cross which never fails to choke me up. His Mother, our Mother, with a flashback to how as a child Jesus had fallen and she ran to Him to console Him in His unexpected pain, now dashes to give Him what support she might in His entirely expected suffering.
Mary ran to Jesus. Call her. Mary hurries also to each of us and stays by our side. We are not in our Lenten discipline alone. When we flag, when we are humbled in our failures, our Blessed Mother is our help, together with all the saints and angels of whom she is the glorious queen.
We too can be of help to others, particularly by not being for them an occasion of temptation to break their resolve.
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