Over the next 40 days, we join our Lord on the via dolorosa, the road of suffering, which culminates in his agonizing death on the Cross. We join him in fasting, in prayer, and in almsgiving.

But what if Jesus doesn’t want us to join him? What if he refuses our Lenten sacrifices and says to us: “I will take no bull-calf from your stalls, nor he-goats out of your pens” (Ps. 50:9)? All too easily, the thought may creep in that Jesus ought to be pleased that I join him in my fastidious Lenten endeavors. Let’s call this temptation the Lenten presumption.

Saint Irenaeus teaches that such Lenten presumption flips things around. It is not God who needs us, but we who need him.   …

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