During Lent, it is easy to use sacrifice as a tool to fool ourselves and everyone around us into thinking we are righteous. Being called selfless, or a tireless leader, or thousands of other titles feels good. It feels good to get a little pat on the back for all of your efforts.
I admit that I often find myself in the Pharisee’s position in today’s readings—checking off the “good person” boxes and making sure I tell God about it so I’ll get a little heavenly pat on the back as well.
Throughout the last decade, I have often let my roles as advocate, organizer, volunteer, and director stand in the place of good thriving relationships with God or really anyone, including those I am advocating with and for because of my own insecurity and fear. I am guilty of using my busy-ness as a tool to self-righteousness by convincing people I’m essential to a team because I am afraid of feeling unneeded. I’m guilty of falling into the habit of busy-ness bragging—“I was at the office until Really-Late O’clock last night”—to draw attention to my “selflessness.” I’m even guilty of letting my insecurity-inspired self-righteousness exclude others, leaving out important voices, ideas, and helping hands because I think I can do it better.
It is in this busy-ness and seeking of righteousness that I not only lose sight of the goal, but I actively move farther away from it.
“For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
A more just world, a heavenly setting of equality, equity, and healing on Earth, requires less time fussing around making sacrifices and burnt offerings and more time sitting in and sharing the love of God. For it is in this love alone that the insecurity that leads to self-righteousness and despising of others falls away. It is in this love alone that we can receive and grant mercy that causes us to pound our chests. It is in this love alone that we can truly listen and grow in understanding to God and one another.
How are you growing closer to God this Lent? How are you experiencing and providing love?
Lena Chapin is the development director for Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating from John Carroll University, she spent a year in Immokalee, Florida with the Humility of Mary Volunteer Service. Lena worked for the Ignatian Solidarity Network from 2016-2022.