“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:16-18
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is the "Launch Party" for a season in the church called Lent, during which we prepare for Easter Sunday, a celebration of God sacrificing his son Jesus, in order for our humanly sins to be forgiven, and that son coming back to us after his death in order to save the world.
Sounds positively wonderful, right?
Well... unfortunately, when you ask most Catholic's about Lent, the most common response is one of misery and irritability. And it's understandable that some of us feel this way. We are human... we like to have our cake and it, too. We like to take the easy way out of tricky situations. We like luxury. No one instinctually desires to live a life of desolation and poverty, and that's almost what it feels like you are doing when you choose a Lenten promise for yourself. By mid-Lent, many Catholics come to mass, looking like this guy...
Lent has a tendency to make some of us feel raggedy, pained, and dismal. Surprisingly, and to the shock of many, this is the opposite of how you should be portraying yourself during this time. If you read my last post about Lent, you know, I myself, have been guilty of this in the past.
Yes, we should use this time to make sacrifices for the purpose of showing God how much he means to us, however... complaining, griping, and moaning about how miserable you are and how much you are craving chocolate doesn't really show your love to anyone who you are attempting to make a sacrifice for, much less The Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Though, I'm not big on quoting the bible, simply because it can be difficult for non-bible enthusiasts to understand, I think the message that this verse provides is important to keep in mind during this time of the year.
It's so easy to lose sight of why we are doing what we are doing during Lent.
So... right now, today, in this very moment, I want you to forget what you know and what you think you know about Lent. No, I'm no expert and I've never been to the Vatican, but my gut tells me this... (and like Olivia Pope from Scandal would say, "Trust your gut.")
Lent is a time to begin a new journey. The idea of this journey may have been in the back of your mind, tucked away, and almost forgotten because you know that as this journey comes to life, you will be faced with many difficult decisions and forks in the road. One path will appear to be easier, more comfortable, and will take you right back to where you started, but the other, which will appear to be more difficult, will lead you to the place where you have the ability to become the best version of yourself.
It doesn't matter if you are Catholic, a follower of Christ, or lost somewhere in translation. We all have burdens that we bare daily, and the thing is, we have the ability to lift them, if we put in the time and effort, and decide to endure the uncomfortableness that comes with making a life change.
Maybe you haven't spoken to your mother in years and you can't even remember the reason why. Maybe you haven't treated a co-worker as nicely as you should because of one negative incident at work. Maybe you have the resources to donate to a local food bank monthly, but instead you treat yourself to a pedicure. Maybe your drug addiction has distanced you from your children. Maybe you haven't visited a friend who is sick in the hospital because it makes you feel uncomfortable and scared. Maybe you need to ask forgiveness or forgive someone from your past. Whatever is keeping the best version of yourself away from your loved ones and those who you surround yourself with... let it go.
Now is the time. Do something different to make a positive change. Of course, making this conscious decision to leap into the unknown is the scariest decision you will ever make. It's a big risk. But the bigger risk is what you will lose in your relationships, if you don't try.
I truly believe in the "ripple effect". If you show love and kindness to one person, that love will radiate to more places than you can imagine.
Isn't that what life is about? It's not about you living the way you see fit. It's about living in such a way that you are positively effecting the lives of others. And that is how you show God that you truly care.
So, as we enter this Lenten season, I encourage you to make a selfless change that will benefit another person's life, because I think that is the kind of sacrifice we are called to make and that change is one we should continue to embrace, even after Lent is through.