Some years during Lent, I feel like I am in a cross country race. I start off with the best intentions jogging along in prayer and fasting and then slow down to a slow trot or even a walk. This is the part of Lent, with just a couple of weeks left, where we can dig deep and finish strong.
Bear in Mind: God Does Lent for Us; We Don’t Do It for Him. If you think that you are going to crush Lent, it will crush you. And good. You apparently need a firm crushing or a heaping spoonful of you suck. The point of Lent is not to stretch ourselves, it is not a fitness regimen to make ourselves grow in holiness, it is not to prove ourselves to God or man, and for pity’s sake, it is not a contest.
When the 40 desert days drew to a close,
And Your empty, worn down body cried,
“Seek comfort!” “You deserve it!”
My Lord, what did You do? Lean in.
This Advent, especially as we approach Christmas, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “It’s better to give than to receive.” This is an important idea, one that emphasizes a spirit of giving rather than selfishness. But any Christian has heard it before, so I’m going to offer a different thought for reflection: the best thing that you can do this Christmas is receive.
So, let’s say you are a Christian. Christmas is a pretty big deal, right? The birth of the savior of the world warrants some major celebration. One problem, lots of your friends, family, and even society at large love Christmas but don’t seem to care much about Jesus. Most of the focus is on parties, presents, and Santa Claus.
What’s a Christian to do?
“Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2356).
It’s that time of year again. A few weeks ago streets and workplaces and classrooms were filled with people wearing black smudges on their foreheads. In less than a month, Easter baskets will be overflowing with sweets and treats and churches will resound with the joyful noise of the Forbidden A-word.*
The real St. Nicholas—a church father recently made meme-famous for punching heretic Arius in the nose—bears little resemblance to the fat bearded gentlemen who hurries down chimneys and brings gifts to children whose names are recorded on cosmic “Naughty” and “Nice” lists. Not to mention the flying reindeer. Indeed, the fables associated with Santa Claus are so fantastic that even children have difficulty believing in him after a while, and some Christians worry that growing out of belief in Santa Claus will pave the way for growing out of belief in God.
The struggle is real when overcoming distractions, and focusing our gaze on Jesus and choosing to trust in Him to provide for me. I always tell myself that if I can trust my “smart” phone’s GPS to get me to a job interview on time, I should be able to trust Jesus with my hopes, dreams and soul right? Well, we are all sinners who can get distracted and allow our trust to weaken, but the Church has given us some wonderful ways of getting ourselves back on track, and allowing us to melt in the mercy of His Most Sacred Heart.