Favored: March 31, 2017- Post 4
I feel like, once again, I should preface this post by saying that Lent isn’t easy, certainly not for me. Lent stresses disciplined behavior in preparation for the death and resurrection of our Savior. And this discipline and preparation is beautiful in that it allows us to better acknowledge our need for repentance and the saving love of Christ. But I have found that it also makes it easy for me to allow lies to take residence in my heart and to lead me to doubt.
I am currently reading a book titled Living Lent with Mary that shines light on this very issue. In particular, it uses the writings of Luke and the faith of Mary to dispel these lies and replace them with truth. Throughout this week, it has been made evident that the Lord is continuing to work on me. I am a work in progress. I am a believer that continues to doubt. But He is using this Lenten season to remind me of His great love for me and challenge me to trust in Him more.
He is replacing the lies with truths.
“Do not fear, for you have found favor with God”
Upon reading this (not for the first time, but for the first time in a while) I immediately thought, “Wow, Mary is incredible. She was told, by God’s personal messenger, that she was found favorable in the eyes of the Lord. She was told that God delighted in her and looked kindly upon her. I want that!” This was quickly followed by me conjuring up all the things that set Mary and myself apart, all my shortcomings, all the reasons God couldn’t possibly delight in me in the way He delighted in Mary. And this belief, this lie, that God’s love and favor is conditional, crept into my heart…
But I continued to read further in the Gospel of Luke and truth entered in! Look at Mary. She was a young, simple woman. She wasn’t a high priestess or a great theologian. Yet, God’s favor fell upon her. Why? Because He chose to offer it and she had the faith and willingness to accept. Now I have certainly not been visited by an angel and asked to carry the Son of God into this world (let’s not doubt for a moment that Mary is incredibly holier and more trustworthy and obedient than I will ever be), but I am offered God’s grace, and I do have the choice to accept or deny it. God does ask things of me, and I do have the choice to follow Him or reject Him. And God has found favor in me, regardless of my human nature and inclination towards sin. As written in Tim Perry’s Living Lent with Mary, “God’s favor and grace do not depend on our piety, prayer, or position in life.” God’s favor and grace are offered in full, the amount that falls upon us is directly dependent on how fully we accept it.
Here’s the ironic part, this isn’t the only lie I’ve let creep into my heart this Lent. In direct contrast to this previous lie, I have also found myself falling into the false belief that good things have occurred because of my obedience, and will continue to occur if I pray hard enough and love God well enough. But that’s not how it works either, and again, Mary is a great example of why. If living uprightly and trusting God fully led directly to an easy, happy life, then it’s pretty safe to assume Mary would have been living among royalty. Yet that’s not the case at all. Instead, Mary lives a modest life, wife to a carpenter and mother to a young boy who disappears into temples and a young man who is hated and persecuted. As I continued to read Luke’s gospel, Mary was told by Simeon just 40 days after Jesus’ birth that a sword would pierce her heart, and 33 years later it did, as she witnessed her Son’s crucifixion.
Upon reading this and reflecting on Mary’s steadfast faith, her continued trust in the Lord, her continued belief that God’s will must be done, even when it directly resulted in her own pain and suffering, I was humbled. Pushed aside was my pride, stopped short was my congratulatory pat on the back for remembering to pray 4 days in a row – because God reminded me of something important: He reintroduced the truth that the discipline we exemplify during Lent is a response to the grace God has shown us, not a means of attaining that grace. Again, His favor and grace are offered in full, independent of our performance. Our discipline, obedience, trust, and love are an acknowledgement of that grace and the redemptive love that Jesus offers us through His death on the cross.
How reassuring it has been for me these last couple days, to be reminded of the Lord’s unfailing love for me. How reassuring it is to be reminded that I do not serve and obey God in an effort to please Him, so that He might reward me. Rather, I serve and obey God, I practice discipline and strive to be more fervent in prayer, in an effort to prepare my heart in a way that makes me better able to receive the favor and grace He is already offering me. I prepare during the season of Lent so I am better able to say “yes”, like Mary did, to the will of the Lord. I show discipline and repentance during Lent because I am in need of mercy. And the Lord, being good and loving, will offer that mercy in full through His death on the cross.
So it may seem like a simple truth, that the Lord’s love is unconditional, but it’s one that is easy to allow lies to taint. However, He continues to work on me, and reminds me again and again that I am a daughter of the King, and that King looks favorably upon His children. That King does not love with the conditional
“Do not fear, for you have found favor with God.”
Maddie Zenk is a junior biomedical science major at Colorado State University. She is also a very active member of Ram Catholic. Maddie is on the Student Advisory Board, leads Bible Studies, and helps to evangelize on campus. Ram Catholic is excited to follow her journey this Lent!
“Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers His righteousness on you.” -Hosea 10:12
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