We’re a couple days into Lent and still in the “honeymoon phase.” Most of us have decided what we’re doing, how we’re going to try to grow in faith, what we will sacrifice, and how we will help further God’s work here on earth. We should be proud that we’re taking steps to do these things. And we must work hard at them each day because we know that the struggle comes 2-3 weeks in when we may let some of these practices lapse.
As my Lenten journey began this week, two things struck me. Two questions actually.
The first is: Are you living distinctly? Fr. Mike Schmitz asked this question to his Bible in a Year podcast listeners this past week, and it’s a question that has stayed on my mind.
What does it mean to live distinctly? Well, to be distinct is to be distinguishable from something or someone else. So you could say that living distinctly means we set ourselves apart from others. We hold ourselves to a greater standard than others. We uphold the commandments. We live for God and to do good. We build that culture of life that this world so desperately needs, even when the world tries to shut us down—or up.
The second question has two parts. The first is: What makes you happy? Lino Rulli, SiriusXM’s “Catholic Guy,” asked that question in his daily Lenten message yesterday. And he followed it with: Does God make you happy?
Let’s combine these questions and think about their impact. What makes you happy? Does God make you happy? And are you living distinctly?
Lino encouraged his listeners to write down what they want out of Lent, and I challenge you to do the same. I also challenge you to reflect on—and honestly answer—these three questions.
Lots of things can make us happy—for the time being. But only God can give us eternal happiness. To live a joy-filled life, we must nurture our relationship with Him. That means we strive every day to do what He commands. We strive every day to care for others in concrete ways. We go out of our way to help make people’s lives easier or to teach them about God. We pray unceasingly. And when we do these things, we will be happy. We will find that happiness in God. And we will be able to answer the last question in the affirmative. Yes, I am living distinctly. I have set myself apart.
We can look around the world, read the news, and get sucked into the horrors of social media and become overwhelmed with sadness and despair. We can fill our days with negativity. Or we can rise above all that and live a life of hope in Christ!
That’s not always easy. To have that hope in Christ can be a struggle at times. Sure, it’s easy when things go well in life, but it’s more difficult when our prayers haven’t been answered yet or when they’re answered in a way that’s different from what we had asked. But Christ teaches that we must remain steadfast in faith. As St. Paul told the Corinthians: “Be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
In order to have and sustain a hope in Christ, we must first realize that it is only He who will make us truly happy.
We live in a broken world. And we are a broken people. But that doesn’t deter Christ. He came here for us. His love does not ebb and flow. It endures all. And no matter what we do, Christ will still love us.
I encourage you to prayerfully think about these three questions and to build your Lent—and your life—on the answers God desires you to give. These next six weeks of Lent can be transformative, or they can be mundane.
When we truly understand the love God feels for us and the sacrifice He made, we will feel a happiness that we can’t help but allow to spill over and cause us to live distinctly. And that is why Christ came.
So I ask again: What makes you happy? Does God make you happy? And are you living distinctly?