First Meditation: Examine your interior state
Consider the dreadful choices we often make, because we do not know the true state of our own self. Even worse, just think back on how many times you did things, which on reflection you should have known were not true of yourself—how you really are and feel and what you deem truly valuable in your life. Your choices, if not true of yourself, cast away both your own past experience as well as the doctrines, values, ethics and morality of your faith, your church and the teaching of Jesus. In short, we often make choices which throw out the baby with the bath water, simply because we ignore the deeper understanding we have of our true self—a self which rest in Christ and is under the will of God.
How many in the world pass their whole lives in ignorance or denial of the truth of that wisdom which proclaims Know thyself! The result for people is often a collapse into sin just for want of looking into themselves with an honest eye and an open heart. So many imagine themselves to be alive when in reality they are dead. (Apoc. 3:1) How many imagine themselves and their souls to be rich and wealthy and in need of nothing, while in the sight of God, they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked!’ (Apoc. 3:17) All of us beguile ourselves from time to time and so are in need of begging the Lord: From my hidden sins cleanse me, O Lord; and from the sins of others spare your servants. (Psalm 18: 13.) The season of Lent is an opportunity for amending such a state of your soul.
In any case, every Christian should often examine the true state of his interior self with regard to God. If we so love God above all things, then why do we so seldom think of him during the course of our day? How is it that on every occasion of worldly honour, sensual pleasure, and gratifying of our desires, we forget him?
The true lover is always thinking about his love and never more content than when in the company of his beloved. Is your love of God like this?
Second Meditation: Our sins of omission
How often we take notice of the sins we have done but forget about those done through omission – that is those times when we knew we should have done something but did not. For example, how many Christians examine themselves about the commandments of God and the precepts of the Church, but pass over the duties and obligations as regards their own state of life to which they are bound either by law or vow or by the very nature of their calling to the Christian life? Do we render what is Caesar’s to Caesar? Do we render to God what is God’s? Are we cheating?
Bearing in mind that the grand duty of every man and women, the great end for which they were born, is to consecrate themselves to the love and service of God, we must ask ourselves if our days are given to this end. Such an omission of this great duty is usually our first sin that we fall into. The Lent Season is a time to right this wrong and to once again find no omission in your Christian duty and your personal ones to your Lord.
Reflect on the particular obligations called for by what you do in society for these are also governed by obedience to God. For example, the work of a pastor, a teacher, a lawyer, a physician, a tradesman, a superior over others, a householder, the father or mother of a family, the grown child of elderly parents. All these and more have special covenants based in love and the commandments of God. Each is a calling to serve. Each is an opportunity to give glory to God. To neglect such obligations blocks your way to Heaven for you will have fallen into sin by omission.
See, then, how necessary it to make good use of prayer and spiritual exercises at this time, especially to study more deeply your interior life so well as to be no longer blind to your failings as a disciple of Christ.
Third Meditation: A further examination of the soul
Few men and women are ignorant of their carnal sins, even if they make excuses or otherwise try to deceive themselves. However, few people take much notice of their spiritual sins. These are more interior and, though less scandalous in the eyes of others, are surely more deplorable in the sight of God. Spiritual sins are commonly very subtle and not easily discerned without a diligent search. These spiritual sins are of one of these five kinds: pride, covetousness, envy, secret malice, and spiritual sloth. Look into them one by one, and if your self-love will let you be impartial in your search, you will find in all probability you are guilty of more than you at first thought.
Consider how fond you are of every thing that flatters you. How you presume to be in charge of yourself and what happens in your life. How you are prone to compare yourself to others – and usually you find yourself more favourable. How you usually give preference to yourself and what you want instead of giving it to others. How unwilling you are to suffer any reproof or contradiction and always are ready to swell up with indignation upon every trifling opposition you encounter. How much you are concerned at what the world will think or say about you. Finally, when you examine your usual days, is it not true that you have sought worldly approval rather than approval of God? Now what are all these but the result of your unending pride in yourself?
As to covetousness, the greatest miser does not think himself or herself covetous, but the tree is to be known by its fruit. In this case, what are harvested are an anxious care and a perpetual solicitude about the things of this world to the neglect of prayer and other spiritual duties. Thinking about money and the getting of it is a distraction from being with God. If you lock your heart up in your bank account, you end by wanting more money. There is never enough of it for you. If you are afraid of losing worldly substance then you have lost your way to heaven. What about your secret envy? What about secret malice, rancour, and hatred, all of which remains buried deep in your heart? As to spiritual sloth, such laziness is an encumbrance to the soul, infinitely opposite to the love of God, to the spirit of prayer, and to a due care in frequenting the sacraments. Is this not a common spiritual sin, especially of all luke-warm Christians?
So look well into yourself then in this Lent Season in order that you bear in your way of thinking, speaking and acting that fruit which most pleases God.
© “Meditations for Lent” by Stafford Whiteaker from “CALLED INTO LIGHT — Meditations with Bishop Challoner for the Christian Year” by Stafford Whiteaker to be published by Gracewing Ltd in late 2021. Permission is granted for quoting from these meditations as long as the source by book title and author is credited. Pre-ordering via www.gracewing.co.uk. (Please note that foreign rights including USA have not yet been finalised. Permission has been granted by the author for this book to be translated into the French language as well as the usual translations given in foreign rights editions.)