It is hard to believe that the first week of Lent is almost over. It seems like just yesterday we were making New Year’s resolutions, but now most of those resolutions have been long forgotten. Now we have embarked on our Lenten journey with the hope that spring will be here soon. On our 40 day journey, we are to focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. All three are important, but it seems that for most of us fasting becomes the main focus. I know it is difficult to live without chocolate, soda, Facebook, computers games, and the long list of other popular bad habits. I have done many of these in the past. For the past several years, I have decided to choose a sacrifice that leads me closer to Jesus through prayer. Let’s face it, in today’s society we all have much bigger sins we could abstain from. We have addictions of all kinds that lead us to search for healing. Our sins can cause great suffering, and a great need for healing.
We all suffer because of our sin, but I think we need to put that suffering into context. Not eating chocolate for 40 days isn’t really suffering or sacrificing. Unlike our parents and grandparents, we haven’t gone through a world war, and we never had to endure a depression where we couldn’t feed our families. As a generation, we have had little to complain about, yet we always seem to be looking for healing from our suffering. I look at my daughters and the life we have provided for them, and they are pretty lucky with the carefree lives they enjoy. Even with the threat of terrorism, we are able to travel where we want once or twice a year with little fear. Yet, even though we seem to have less to deal with, we seem to be a generation with much more sin and addiction.
I wonder if many of these sins come from a lack of faith. And, do we cause our greatest sufferings? Our sin and suffering can come from things we have said or done to hurt others, addictions we can’t control, and worrying almost constantly. As Catholics, we are fortunate to have the sacrament of Reconciliation. Reconciliation allows us to confess our sins and to receive God’s forgiveness. I never feel lighter than I do when I step out of the confessional. We should see huge lines at the confessional during Lent, but unfortunately this is not the case. When we turn to the sacrament seeking healing, are we really seeking healing or are we seeking to strengthen our faith? Is our need for healing really just a lack of faith? We are told in Mark 10:27, “…All things are possible for God.” So, if we truly believe this, what are we worrying about and why lament about suffering caused by our sin? God wants us to confess our sin so that we can be forgiven. Let’s be honest, if we walk through the Stations of the Cross during Lent and look at the horrific suffering of Jesus, it puts our suffering into perspective, especially knowing He went through it all to save us from our sin. It is heart wrenching to me to see what Jesus endured because of my sin. This is a thought that we should contemplate especially during lent.
I remember about ten years ago on Good Friday, I sat in a chapel for an evening service. I was alone in the chapel, and the only light that was on illuminated a statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus. I had my second miscarriage a few months before, which happened to be a baby boy. I was at one of the lowest points of my life. I was sad, lonely, and angry at God. I couldn’t understand why He would want me to suffer so much. I was struck with the immense grief that Mary must have gone through while watching the beating and crucifixion of Jesus. I realized that what I was going through was traumatic, but that Mary had endured something much worse. I received so much healing when I was able to align my grief with the grief that Mary suffered. But it also created a huge increase in my faith because I was also reminded that, like Mary, I will be reunited with my son some day.
So how do we link the need to be healed from our sins with our Lenten fasting? Maybe this year instead of focusing on giving something up for Lent we can add something to our lives. Find something that you do each day that you would like to stop doing (fasting). Use this time to add extra prayer to your day (prayer). Maybe you could pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet or the Rosary. As you pray, make your prayer intentions all the things you worry about, are addicted to, or are seeking healing from. Then as you see God working in your life during Lent make sure to be thankful and give back to God (almsgiving).
Lent can be a beautiful time of year, and it is my favorite time of year. It gives us the opportunity to look at where our lives have become sinful, and we have a chance to change and turn away from sin. If we are successful, we can die to our sins and rise with Christ on Easter morning as new people.
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