As much as we hate to admit it, we are very far from perfect. When we make a promise to keep during the forty-days of Lent, we should intend to keep it. However, many times we are unfaithful to our promises. This gives us a perfect opportunity to recognize, with humility, the mercies of Christ. Although we cannot stay awake with Him and keep watch, like the apostles at Gethsemane, He offers us limitless opportunities to come back to Him, so long as our intentions are pure.
What do I mean by pure intentions? We cannot just fail in our promises with the intention of crawling for God for mercy. He knows if we are taking advantage of His limitless graces, and if we do so, then our intentions are not pure. If we have done such a thing as to have left His side with the intention of returning to it unscathed and expecting His loving embrace, then our motives must be purged of all impurities before His Justice will accept us back into the fold.
Oftentimes, however, we fail without really meaning to. For instance, perhaps we decided on a daily rosary for our Lenten promise and, running into various problems, decided one night before bed that we were too tired to keep our promises. If we repent in the morning, God’s loving and understanding heart will hear our prayer and give us the strengths we need to continue. However, it will be a little harder for us to receive these graces than if we had kept the penance from the start, and we will have to make an even greater effort to keep our promise than we had before.
Aside from purposeful negligence, sometimes our human weaknesses get into the way of us keeping our promises. Perhaps we forget our promise, or maybe we find the penance imposed on ourselves imperfect in itself and cannot keep it. If we find that we have made a bad decision, or have simply forgotten our promise, we should come back to God with a firm prayer of repentance and make up for it in some way.
In short, our promises are not to be taken lightly… but we have to remember that we, like the apostles, are often weak and imperfect. When we fall off our wagons during Lent, and do not keep our promises, then we should be willing to suffer the consequences and purposefully try again.