If you are like me, I often fail at my new year's resolutions. I have tried to change my diet, I have tried to exercise more, I’ve tried to give up watching Star Trek (actually, I’ve never done something as silly as that). I have failed at all of these. And then, typically, I resign myself to my old habits and wait for the next new year’s to make another attempt.
Unfortunately, Catholics will often approach Lent in the same manner. We attempt to change our ways, to pray more, to sin less, to take on a penance. And if we have failed once at these spiritual endeavors, we then resign ourselves to not even trying and often then indulge in our sacrifices.
I would propose a different tactic. Remember that our Lord is forgiving and merciful. He wants us to be holy. He also knows that we are a work in progress and thus we will regularly fail. What God does expect of us is to keep trying to pursue holiness, even if we have failed. That is the beauty of our God. He does not expect us to be born perfect, nor is God’s policy a “one strike and you're out” approach. Rather, like a loving Father, he accepts his children's’ failings, but also will not let them cease trying to improve and grow.
So if you have failed in your Lenten practices, or have come up short, do not believe the lie that now you should give up. Do not give into the temptation to despair that it is pointless to try again because you don’t have a perfect record. Rather, ask forgiveness from God, receive his grace and pursue the good changes you have already attempted.
God wants you to grow in holiness and Lent is the grace-filled season where this is our goal. Let us not focus on our failings in this noble pursuit, but move forward with God’s grace, mercy and love.