Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's the Third Sunday of Lent: Do You Know Where Your Penance Is?

Time for a little self-assessment.

We're almost halfway through Lent. How's it going? Am I holding up my end of the sacrifice bargain?

Of course, the sacrifice thing isn't really a bargaining situation. It's not as if I say, "Okay, God, I'm going to give up my favorite stuff and in return You'll give me eternal salvation. Sound like a deal? Okay...Go!"

Yeah, the eternal salvation thing doesn't really work like that.

But I do go into Lent feeling both a responsibility and a hunger to:

  • Listen to the wake-up call. (There's always a wake-up call.)
  • Be strengthened in the ability to resist temptations in small things (bacon's good for that) so as to grow in the ability to resist in the large things. 
  • Grow closer to Christ. (Because that's what it's all about for me.

So, about halfway into the desert, I like to check up on myself and my progress (or lack thereof) in those areas.

Am I grumbling, like the people in today's Mass reading:
In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?”
Wow, God's people sure know how to pitch a good fit.

Sometimes I know how to pitch a good fit, too. I've had Lenten seasons wherein I can not stop grumbling to God, "Why did You let me choose this sacrifice? Was it just to have me die here in the midwest in abject shame and misery?"

At those times, I'm sure God wants to respond to me in the same way Moses did:
“What shall I do with this people?" 
Scripture doesn't record it, but I'm pretty sure there was an interrobang at the end of that question. "Really, Lord?!"

Poor Moses. He had an ungrateful lot to deal with. I know how it feels to be part of the ungrateful lot.

But this is not one of those grumbling years for me. This is one of those years when some sacrifices almost seem to be coming too easily. One of the things Atticus and I gave up this year was meat (except on some Sundays.) And it hasn't been that hard, really. I'm a pretty big vegetable devotee as it is, and this hasn't been that big a stretch. So I'm feeling a tug to tighten the sacrifice belt, so to speak.

It's all good.

I love and hate Lent, because it's beautiful and hard.

I'm reading Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe, and I'll close with a quote from St. Faustina that he includes in the book:

Love is a mystery that transforms everything it touches 
into beautiful things that are pleasing to God. 
The love of God sets the soul free. 


nancyo said...

You're so right; Lent is both beautiful and hard. I've taken on some new Lenten practices along with some old companions, and it sounds weird, but I'm loving this Lent. Rigorous, but it feels great, kind of how your muscles feel sore when you've exercised them harder than you have in a long time.

Karen Edmisten said...

Yes, perfect analogy, Nancy!