Well, here we are, the 2nd day of Lent is upon us. Forty days seems like a long time, but whatever we do, the days will come and go. Yesterday, while getting ashes on my forehead, I could not help but wonder. “The ashes are placed on our foreheads, to remind us of our need for repentance, to remind us that we are still very much imperfect”. And what is the Number ONE capital sin? It is the sin of pride. It is really incongruous isn’t it, that we, a society of people full of imperfections, struggle with the sin of pride.

We know our faults. Lord, do we know them. We can’t help but know them. They seem to constantly be reminding us that they are still with us. We look at our lives, and almost to the point of embarrassment, we want to turn our heads away. “Oh God, if people ever knew how I am, if they knew how very much I can and do offend you, they would never talk to me or be with me again”. We do feel that way and think that way. So what do we do? We put up a false front, a façade. This mask is what we have people see. This is how we protect ourselves. Do we strive to correct? No, that is too difficult. We just cover it up. We put on fresh paint to cover the rust underneath.

And here is the most incongruous aspect of all of this. This façade, this mask, this is what we become PROUD of. We struggle, not to correct our problems, but to maintain this illusion. We feel good, when we know that other people think highly of us. We are happiest when others believe that the mask that we hide behind is really us. And so, we do everything in our power to maintain that illusion.

Jesus asked, “Who of you is without sin?” That question wasn’t just for those people in His lifetime. That question rings down through the centuries of time, and stares us in the face. He has already told us that He loves us. He forgave us on the cross, telling His Father in heaven that we didn’t even know what we were doing. He LOVES US!!! Not as we love, with our conditions. We say, “I love that person….. but….”. We immediately put a condition on our love. We don’t really understand, nor appreciate what unconditional love is. We know that Jesus loves us. But we struggle to understand how He could do it, unconditionally. He does not look at what we have done. He looks only at the good that we are capable of doing.

Every person that you know, or ever knew has been asked that question by Jesus. None of us, or them could ever step forward. We ALL are struggling with our faults, imperfections and sins. And Jesus loves us ALL. Why then, do we hide behind our masks, our self-imposed prisons of deceit? It is because we haven’t really embraced and enjoyed the freedom of being loved unconditionally. Every person we know is loved unconditionally. We cannot keep denying our love of others, by throwing up observations that he is dirty, or greedy, or sinful, or a different race. So what? He or she is struggling just as we are.

This time of Lent is a perfect time to start looking within, at ourselves. What is preventing me from giving my friendship, my time, and my energies to others? What are the things that I am throwing up as reasons why I cannot or should not love that person? Grow closer to Jesus. Feel His love and goodness for you. Realize that He doesn’t stop at the mask, but sees us as we are, as we really are. That is the freedom that comes with being a Christian. I cannot undo the problems that I have caused. But I can begin to love my fellow man who is struggling as I am; and see Jesus in him. Have a loving Lent.

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