All of this got me thinking about our faith and upcoming Lent...The liturgical season where we reflect and meditate on that same Crucifix and the reason He's on it. The Passion of Our Lord, The Way of the Cross...Not events in time that are easy to watch or listen to. While they are, yes, sad and horrible, AT the same time, they also lead us to the greatest goal and ultimate joy...Heaven itself. God so loved the whole world that He gave us only Son to suffer and die that WE may have Eternal life. (John 3:16) He suffered so that we may learn that our own suffering is not in vain.
Why should we not be uncomfortable?
We shared all of this with our kids over our pre-Lenten family team huddle, adding the kicker...
Lent is not for wimps!
(Neither is Christianity, for that matter)
But when it comes to this particular liturgical season, it's definitely a time in which the 3 pillars of Lent, (Fasting, Praying, Almsgiving) inevitably activates some moaning and groaning around a large household. We hear it from the kids and occasionally a faint whine from an adult or two:)...How hard is this really going to be?
Yet Lent is also a time when we look forward to changing or improving our ways to get a better handle on our spiritual shape. Sometimes it's a matter of getting back on track and sometimes it's a matter of starting a new spiritual workout routine all together. The kids seemed to enjoy this workout analogy as they all love their sports! We need to spend time strengthening our spiritual lives, just like we do our physical lives. It doesn't take a Doctor of the Church to discover that it takes spiritual effort to make spiritual gain:)
When it comes to Fasting, the way we encourage sacrifice in our family is to listen to our inner voice that tells us what we don't want to do. I know for me, when I start finding and making excuses for why I can't give something up, that's probably the thing (or two) that I need to pray about sacrificing. Just as we know ourselves, we try to teach our children that it's the tough things that make us stronger and lead us closer to Christ.
Our Prayer life can always use a boost in repetitions:) We try to continually remind our kids that Jesus is always waiting for them, He wants to have a relationship with Him. Through the Eucharist and other Sacraments He comes to us but He waits for us in all other areas of our lives as well. We posed a question to them: How would your friend next door feel if you didn't speak with him when he came knocking on the door asking you to play? That's how Jesus is...He's knocking on our door all of the time. He wants us to take a little time to talk with Him. Relationships are work, they are not automatic. Sometimes it hurts to come down on our knees but the results will lift us up!
Almsgiving is the third pillar of Lent where opportunity awaits. It is through doing, that we make the great tangible discovery that it truly is better to give than to receive. The difficult part of this pillar comes in actually carrying out the act of giving. Almsgiving becomes the "Just Do It" part of our Lenten spiritual workout.
Of course none of this is to say that we actually have control over the path that God leads us. As parents, it simply helps us teach our children (and remind ourselves) that sometimes we need to be uncomfortable in our faith. It takes work to stay on the right track and keep our relationship going with the Lord. Things that are good for us and produce the best results do not always come easy. Nothing is automatic.
Lent Is Not For Wimps!
Here's wishing you an uncomfortably blessed Lent:)
In light of the recent news of our Holy Father, I can't help but admire his heroic humility as we enter this historic 2013 Lenten season. If only I could die to myself even a smidge of what he has, I'd be happy...
"I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity." C.S. Lewis