By now, if you’re like every other Orthodox Christian, you can recall at least one if not several examples of where or how you have failed during Great Lent this year. You learned, probably weeks ago, that just because you say you want to fast this year, doesn’t mean that you will succeed every day of Great Lent. There are forty days of fasting, just counting the actual days of Great Lent, let alone the days before and after that are also days of fasting. But just because you may have failed once or twice, or a dozen times, doesn’t mean you have failed.
As Orthodox Christians, we are committed to the process of Great Lent. As we read in Proverbs today, (you can read the entire passage below) intent means everything when it comes to success or failure. The advice today is offered to those who are intent to live as God desires us to live, rather than someone dedicated to their own rationale for life.
As we embark upon our final week of Great Lent, I invite you to reflect upon your successes AND failures in how you fasted, how your prayed, how you helped the poor, if you did any of these Lenten disciplines at all. Consider the next few days of Great Lent as a chance to grow from your spiritual struggles. Allow today’s reading to inspire you to become a person “of knowledge” rather than a scoffer. Allow your failures in your spiritual disciplines to reprove you and build understanding.
Once you have reflected a bit, I invite you to call your Spiritual Father and schedule Holy Confession as part of your preparation for Pascha. He will discipline you with hope that you will grow closer to God. Just don’t lose sight of what will make his discipline of benefit…..intent is everything.
He who keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises the word will die. He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. Discipline your son while there is hope; do not set your heart on his destruction. A man of great wrath will pay the penalty; for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again. Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established. What is desired in a man is loyalty, and a poor man is better than a liar. The fear of the LORD leads to life; and he who has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, and will not even bring it back to his mouth. Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge. – Proverbs 19.16-25