At the beginning of every Lent, I tell myself, “This year, I’m really gonna do Lent.” Skip to the end of Lent and I’m shocked Easter has already arrived. I’m also usually feeling guilty because I’ve barely kept any of my Lenten practices during the 40-day season.
I see other people who have denied themselves of all kinds of things in preparation for Easter, and it makes me subconsciously think, “Well, I’m not worthy of really participating in Easter because I didn’t participate in Lent.” As a result, I half-heartedly celebrate Easter, and even though it’s a joyous occasion, I feel guilty and unworthy of partaking.
As I grappled with this, I realized the only thing getting in the way of fully partaking in Easter was me. Here’s why.
Easter is always worth celebrating, even if you didn’t do Lent.
While Lent is important and useful, Easter is not contingent upon whether we give up sweets, junk food, or if we’re perfect. Easter isn’t not gonna happen simply because we didn’t “do” Lent. Lent is about getting honest with ourselves about the things that hold us back from loving more fully, but Easter is about Christ who came and died for us — and that is the fullest measure of love. So Easter, on its own, is always worth celebrating to the fullest extent. Jesus isn’t shaking His head because we didn’t keep our Lenten resolutions. He’s calling us to celebrate with Him regardless.
Lent is meant to serve your whole year.
Yes, Lent is a season that leads up to Easter, but deepening conversion happens year-round. That doesn’t mean you have to be giving up sweets and forgo watching Netflix for 365 days — it just means that we’re always working on better responding to God’s love. It’s a lifestyle, not just a season. So if you didn’t knock the socks off Lent, that doesn’t mean you have to wait until next spring to work on your spiritual life. If you didn’t do Lent and if you haven’t been to church in a long time, you can literally begin your own season of spiritual self-improvement on Easter Sunday, or any other day of the year.
Try, try again.
One of the coolest things about Catholicism is that you get endless chances. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen and had to get back up to try again. God isn’t counting how many times we haven’t fully lived our faith — there’s no one waiting for three strikes to call you out. No, we are welcomed back endlessly. I’m always tempted to just throw in the towel when I feel like I’m not a “perfect” Catholic (whatever that means). When I compare myself to other Catholics who seem super holy, I begin to feel inadequate and tend to distance myself from God and stop actively pursuing faith. Again, God isn’t saying, “You can only come back when you’re perfect.” That’s not how perfect love works. It’s like shade from a tree — it doesn’t change based on who takes it in or how worthy we are.
Easter is the culmination of the Catholic faith and it’s easy to feel guilty for celebrating if you’re not 100 percent in — whether during Lent or the rest of the year. But the truth is that Easter happened because every single one of us struggles with being 100 percent in — and that’s even true for the saints, who came closest to being “perfect.”
Jesus didn’t die and rise again for perfect people. He did it for the imperfect. Easter marks this door He opened to new life, and we are repeatedly welcomed with open arms to live in that abundance. We’re welcomed on Easter and every day.