Modern sensibilities would have us sneer at the idea of giving up something as a form a prayer. Our culture has never been big on self denial. Witness all the diet commercials that constantly emphasize how you can still have it all and be a size six. Whereas everyone gets making a new start on January 1st, the idea of willfully forgoing a pleasure as a form of prayer starting at Ash Wednesday still baffles many. People who opt not to practice Lent often seek to discourage those who do, to trivialize the spiritual importance of such a season. Christ needed to prepare in the desert for his coming passion, suffering and death. How much more do we need to prepare for our daily struggle than Christ?
Lent is not simply a spiritual version of New Year’s resolutions, it is a willful sacrifice, a fledgling attempt by a sinful creature (man) to become more like the Creator, (God). Just as surely as a parent smiles when a child brings a fist full of dandelions or a home made picture, so God smiles when we seek to find God by sublimating something of our seemingly endless appetite to be full of all things but Him. Giving up Chocolate or Diet Coke or computer games is not done because those things are innately bad, but as a form of self discipline, spiritual discipline.
These are little things yes, but as we all know, giving up even the littlest thing for the six weeks of Lent can be very difficult indeed. How can we go without? By focusing on the goal to become closer to God through sacrifice, we can get through those moments when the modern version of the apple that we’ve given up is tempting.
It is so hard for us to give God or anyone for that matter, our full attention for very long. The apostles could not stay awake an hour. Martha could be distracted whereas Mary sat in awe. Lent is designed to help train us to focus on Christ, to recognize that all of our lives can be understood through Christ, even minutia, even suffering and death. Lent trains us to live in the presence of Christ, as if the Blessed Sacrament were in front of us at all times.
So give up a little thing this year. Offer a prayer, offer a fasting, offer a service, offer a sacrifice. Do it with the smile of knowing, that this little act will bring you closer to God. Mother Teresa said to do “Little things with great love.” Try it for just one day, it’s a harder and richer way to live than one might imagine.. Graces will flow. God will be smiling at your gift.
Copyright 2009 Sherry Antonetti