Longest…Lent…Ever! How many of us get to this point of lent and wonder if we can make it to Easter? All the sacrifices and additions from and to our life that seem to be weighing very heavy at this point. Then to complicate matters, we have Holy Week just around the corner; a chance for penance and yes, more sacrifice. We all know why Paul likened the Christian life to a race, we are in the home stretch but still we wonder if we can make it!
While we sit, considering breaking each one of our Lenten devotions and sacrifices, lets take a moment to look at the “why” of all this lenten stuff.
We give up comforts in lent to make a sacrifice to God, who gave His only son, for us. Now too often we hear this pronouncement, one we say every Sunday, just as we hear our mother telling us she gave birth to us only after 62 hours of labor and why can’t we listen to her just this once…Can we become Immune to feelings of gratitude towards God? We can, and so many do. I tell the story often, probably a little too often, of the lady that walked into a church I was pastoring and after seeing the Christus Rex (not even a crucifix) behind the altar proclaimed, “take Jesus off that cross”! We do want to forget that Christ died for each of us, because if we were constantly reminded of the fact we would then feel obligated to listen to God’s call, to live our life for him and not for ourselves, we might increase our tithe…to a tithe, we might even go to a Christian Ed class to learn more of this loving Father we have in heaven. We might feel obligated to make sacrifice in reparation.
Sacrifice is hard. Sacrifice is tiring. Sacrifice takes fortitude, prudence, temperance, and acting with justice. It takes being a Christian. And there it is, by our sacrifice we become a better Christian!
All our sacrifices for Lent are not simply arbitrary rules made up by the Catholic Church simply to ruin our lives, they are there to help us. So in affect we sacrifice for ourselves. And by breaking that fast, you only hurt yourself!
We fast during lent to become better Christians, we fast also to show God that we do recognize His great sacrifice. No, we certainly should not take Jesus off that cross! In fact, we might need a few more crucifixes around to remind us of His great sacrifice. Think of all the Christians who will never look at a crucifix! Who will go to Easter services having never walked with Jesus from His entrance into Jerusalem to His being nailed to the cross. So many will go from “blessing to blessing” never taking the time to really know what sacrifice Jesus made. Not saying that we have to be crucified to properly know sacrifice, but in partaking in a sacrifice, any sacrifice, we can know at least partly how He felt on the cross. And knowing that partial truth, we can all the more love Christ for the sacrifice He made, knowing that it is taking all our strength to make the small sacrifices we make every lent.
So take courage, and keep those promises you made to God on the first day of Lent! Be a better Christian, and learn sacrifice. You will be not only a better person for it, you will be a better child of God!