Whatcha gonna give up?
Here we are the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. So what are you going to give up?
Caffeine, candy, snacking, alcohol, smoking.....Just name the vice and I can quit it for forty days, regain a tad bit of health, and then totally overindulge come Easter Sunday to make up for the forty days I missed. Is that what it is all about? It seems like a very, “Old Testament, 10 commandments, ‘THOU SHALL NOT’ type of attitude.” If that is your path, Go For It! And I hope you find God.
Jesus speaks in the New Testament, the Golden Rule, and He ha and is the ‘THOU SHALL’ type of attitude. He knew that Moses had done a great job teaching the ‘Thou Shall Not’s’, so Jesus took it a step further to teach the “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) Doesn’t Jesus want some positive action out of us this Lent? Doesn’t He want us to help the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned?
So, maybe it is a balance of both. Sure it is great to give something bad up, but what about a commitment to something good for forty days? Or even in a “giving up” idea, we shoot for the positive that can come out. That moves us to fasting not just so that you can fit into those “skinny” clothes that you can’t wear anymore. I have heard that fasting can be a contemplative prayer in two ways:
1.The hunger pangs that we feel, help us to feel what the truly hungry feel. It can be a bonding to our fellow man. We can join in on their suffering and pray for them as we do.
2.The hunger pangs can help us to understand how much our spirit is yearning for God. How starving we are for his grace and his love. The spirit is very hungry and the fasting of the body can bring to light how needy our soul is.
In the Gospel in Mass today, Jesus says,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
And take his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
But whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
John 15:13 says it even better for me, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.
Jesus will lay down His life for us on Good Friday, and that is the example that He portrays. Even though Jesus’ death is very literal, I don’t think that full-blown martyrdom is the calling for most of us. I do think that small deaths are required and that they are deaths of self. I will suggest that Jesus is asking us to “lay down” parts of our lives that are all about us.
Laying down the TIME of your activities to go visit a parent or someone who is lonely.
Laying down the ATTENTION of your interests for a child’s interests to meet their need for validation and reassurance.
Laying down the ASPIRATIONS of your life goals to meet those of your spouse or someone close to you.
Laying down the LISTENING that you need to listen to a friend that needs a friend.
Wish you all the best on your Lenten journey.
[Today's Reflection was offered by Chuck Forthaus.]