John 8:31-42 (NRSVCE)
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.
What does it mean to be a true disciple? Jesus is seen here calling out the Jews for their unbelief, for their wickedness in wanting to put him to death for the truth that he proclaims. He says they have no place in them for his word. The Jews have spent so much time filling up their hearts with wickedness and sin, that they no longer have any place for Christ to enter in. They have closed their own hearts off to God, preferring to live in their own sin.
This idea of making room in our hearts for Christ is what the penitential season of Lent is all about. We fast during Lent, we give ourselves spiritual challenges during Lent, not merely because the Church asks us to, and certainly not because we want to make up for already abandoning our New Year’s resolutions. We cut things out of our life, through fasting, and we add spiritual practices into our life because we wish to open our hearts up more to Christ and his word. We wish to make room for Christ within us.
And it’s not easy. In fact, it’s often incredibly difficult. For example, I very nearly didn’t finish my reflection today because I got caught up doing other things. But I knew I had to make time to do it. Because if I didn’t, then what does that say about the seriousness of my faith and the relationship I have with Christ? Can I not even spare a few minutes in the day for my Savior? What in my life could possibly be more important than God?
But we all do this, all the time. We are too busy to go to mass, or we’re just too tired to read our Bibles, or “I don’t think I’ll go to the Bible Study tonight because I haven’t had a chance to sit down and watch TV all week.” We prioritize things in our life, and that’s totally understandable. But the point of Lent is to refocus our priorities—to ensure that our first priority is always God, as it should be. If we are not focused firstly on God, then our lives are out of order. That’s the importance of the Lenten season, and it’s something which ought to carry through beyond Lent and into every single day of our lives.