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Finding the Traitor Within


In many ways, Lent is about finding out where our real loyalties lie.


It is the season to test whether or not we belong to the city of God or the city of men. But the difficulty of our search is amplified by the subject matter, for we have ready-made symbols to express our loyalty to outward associations, like the flag, an anthem, the monarchy, the cross even. But we know that loyalty, the stuff that nations and cities are built on, is born on the battlefield.

Lent, then, is the spiritual battlefield for hearts. It is the time within the Church where we all encourage one another to look deeply within and root out what is in fact an enemy to our mission.

Greed, gluttony, lust, envy, pride, wrath, sloth—enemies of the soul whose very presence indicates a previous and active loyalty to the prince of this world.

It is very much like riding a passenger train and staring out the window. As night descends, we see less and less of the outside world and more and more of ourselves reflected back upon us. Lent is the night we need so that we can better see what has been festering within the train of our souls.


And what can be most frightening as we begin this journey is that we often find that we are not alone on the train. When the darkness descends and the image of our inner world becomes clearer, we find that there are enemies standing alongside us.

Greed, gluttony, lust, envy, pride, wrath, sloth—enemies of the soul whose very presence indicates a previous and active loyalty to the prince of this world.


And it is our adverse reaction to this revelation that gives us the courage and resolve to strike out in penitential ways. We know that a rebellion is in order, and so we deny even the many good things about us, knowing that they too might be one of the many links to our current predicament.

But Jesus said, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

We will not succeed in this task because we have received ashes on our foreheads and the darkness of Lent surrounds the Church. We will not win this fight because we have found something really tough to give up. We will only succeed when we refuse to close our eyes to the reality we see reflected back at us.


We will succeed only when we can honestly say that we have found a traitor within, and when we resolve to throw him from the train.




in Christ,


patrick

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