by Fr. Ignatius
By Fr. Ignatius L. Madya Utama, SJ

Thirty years ago I went to Confession every week. Surprisingly, it did not help me become closer to GOD. Nor did it enable me to overcome my shortcomings and sins either. On the contrary, I became more and more guilty and committed the same mistakes and sins more frequently for the same span of time. As a result, I hated myself and became spiritually paralyzed.


Why did that happen? Because I simply relied on my own strength and not on GOD’s grace and love. My Spiritual Director noticed this, so he told me to stop confessing the same sins and start to learn how to put my life in GOD’s hand and let GOD guide me.

I was perplexed hearing what he said. Seeing me looking puzzled he told me that he would replace me should GOD send me to hell. Hearing what he said I left his office with a light heart. Starting that time, every time I commit sin I repented and I did not allow myself to be driven by guilty feeling. I also began to feel and become more and more convinced that only GOD’s grace can empower me to overcome my weaknesses and sins. But to come to this awareness and “self surrender” was not a simple and short journey. It took many years.

Reflecting on my spiritual journey, especially in this area, I can conclude that the core of spiritual life is basically drawing near to GOD and let GOD come near to us (
James 4:8) and let Him do with our life. Or put it in a better way: Letting GOD draw us near to Him.

When we allow GOD to draw us near to Him, all His life will flow into us like a living water and become in us a spring of water welling up to eternal life (
John 4:14). As a result, surprisingly, we will spend most of our time to do GOD’s work in and through our daily responsibilities and will not have much time to think of doing bad things or committing sin.

This is what Lenten season is meant for. Lenten season is not only about what food or drink we should not take. Lenten season is a time to reflect on how Jesus dedicated His life and ministries for proclaiming and to actualizing GOD’s Reign in our life situation, on how He was hung on the Cross as a consequence of the lifestyle He chose, and on how GOD raised Him to life to vindicate Him. By reflecting on this, we will be drawn into the dynamism of Jesus’ life and His life will gradually change ours to be like His.

In a sense, Lenten season is a time to reflect on our lives and to ask ourselves the following: Are our lives already patterned after the life of Jesus? Do we carry out our daily responsibilities as a way of committing ourselves to cooperate with GOD in making His Kingdom come in our society? Are our relationships with family members and friends, with our colleagues, our employees and with our helpers life-giving? Do we see our lives and others’ as the best gifts from GOD, hence we need to take care of them? Do we take time to nurture and develop our potentials so that the quality of our presence will be better? And finally, do we allow GOD to love us unconditionally and draw us near to Him?

May GOD’s Spirit help us and empower us so that the answers to all these questions are a big Yes. Then, we can smile and thank GOD because it is the fruit of His love, which never fails to draw us near to Him.