We are in ‘the days before’ – that is, the days immediately prior to the commencement of Lent. For me, this is always a slightly odd period.
My prayers are beginning to reflect the near arrival of that time which the Church asks us to characterise by prayer, fasting and almsgiving; it is a time of looking within ourselves and determining where our interior life needs improvement, along with determining how best to reflect this in our exterior life, so that there is balance between the two.
One of the things which always occurs to me at this point is the realisation that in several weeks time, as Lent comes to a close, I will look back upon it in order to see whether or not I put the season to good use.
I usually have something of a sense of dread – the fear that in looking back, I see not moments used well, but opportunities lost forever. Grace exists in particular moments and for specific purposes within those moments – and so I always fear that I have placed obstacles in the path of that grace and what it was intended to achieve.
I’m probably not alone in any of that.
I see something of this sense reflected across the Psalms, where the author alternates between the realisation of both personal and communal failures on the one hand, and the praises of the ever-faithful God on the other. That tension always seems to be present for us – for each one of us today, as much as for the Psalmist thousands of years go. His words still resonate within us.
The Psalmist assures us that “the fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom”; and so, in these days before, I will try to consider this very carefully, placing myself before the Lord with that spirit of just fear; but I will balance this with something else of which the Psalmist assures us – that “His mercy endures forever”.
As Lent opens out before us, may it be a real and very powerful moment of grace, in whichever way that is necessary for us, so that we are able to draw just a little bit closer to the Lord.