At the beginning of Lent, I invited us to reflect on the difference between being a true follower of Christ or simply an admirer. How we have undertaken our Lenten journey will give a good indication of the camp to which we belong. The question we can pose to ourselves is simple: after this Lenten journey, is it evident that I love God more than at the beginning of Lent? And by extension, do I love others more than at the beginning of Lent? Those are the questions that are most important for us to ask ourselves, not how successful we have been with our Lenten practices, for if they have not resulted in this increase in love for God and neighbor, they have been ineffective, at least according to what the Church expects of us from our Lenten observances. Being the so-called “best version of ourselves” must always be seen through the lens of the Gospel, not through the lens the world which focuses just on self-perfection and self-love. The true follower of Jesus comes to the beginning of Holy Week with greater love in their hearts. Admirers, however, have remained largely unchanged in their hearts, despite checking all of the boxes of Lent.
As I share these challenging words, I do not intend for them to make us as feel discouraged if we find ourselves in the admirer camp. The fact of the matter is, we all likely have a mix in our hearts of being both a follower and an admirer. But there is good news for us, even if we feel that we have not lived this Lent well. There is still time for us to make good use of the season, even if there are only a few days left. Just look to the example of the Good Thief who, in the final moments of the Passion of Jesus, turned to Him with that moving request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”, to which Jesus responded: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)
It is not too late for us to make that intentional decision to live as a follower of Jesus Christ, asking for His grace to overcome those areas of our hearts which still only admire Him from a distance, unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to be more completely His. A week may not seem like enough time for this type of conversion, but this is no ordinary week! The love of Christ is on full display for us this Holy Week as we recount the gift that He won for all of us through His suffering and death.
May I suggest a final Lenten practice for each of us this week? Find a crucifix and keep it visible to you throughout the week. Look at it regularly, and as you do, make many acts of reparation for your many sins, and follow them up with acts of thanksgiving and love for the sacrifice He offered for each of us. Even if you have struggled with your Lenten disciplines, this simple practice of adoring our Lord’s Cross during this week can bear great fruit that can redeem your entire Lenten journey and so prepare you to celebrate Easter in the way the Church intends, as a follower, no longer just an admirer.