I had just placed ashes on his head. I was looking at him – with his dirty forehead lying there on the white sheets of the hospital bed – when he said, 'Father can I ask you a question?'
'Yes', I replied, realizing full well there was an ashen cross on this sinner's forehead too.
Then he asked: 'Why do I need Lent?'
I thought for a moment and answered: Lent confronts the horror of my sin before the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who knew no sin (See 2 Cor. 5:21). Without coming to grips with my sin, I can't see how much I need God's love.
I need to see his love for me in the cross of Christ and the glory of Easter. Sins really do matter. We deceive ourselves into thinking, 'we are not really that bad compared to everyone else – God is not really concerned about my little sins.'
We have an eternal soul and Lent is a mini purgatory. In purgatory the soul stands before God Almighty, helpless, stripped, naked just like the Lord has always seen us. We can't dress up our sin to hide it from God. We stand like our Lord Jesus stripped of His garments before He was nailed to the cross.
Every pain in purgatory points to His cross and our failure to see our need of accepting Christ's pardon of our sins. Purgatory will not let us go until we discover how Jesus wants us to love Him. Our sins nailed Christ to the cross and His love for our souls held Him there.
THE WAY OF THE PILGRIM, a work by an unknown Christian, has this prayer: "Lord, make me worthy to love you as I have loved sin in the past." And then the pains of purgatory will be the joyous peace of Easter.