I sit at my computer writing this post on the eve of a widely appreciated day known as Fat Tuesday, or Mardis Gras. This day is in turn the eve of another significant day, that of Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the Lenten season. I'm sure we'll all chow down on our paczki and ice cream and other delightful junk foods, crammin' it all in before Lent. But then the penitential season will begin, and with it, the sacrifices, as well as the blessings.
As I said, Lent is a penitential season - a season in which we make reparation for our sins through self-denial, as well as strive to grow spiritually. It is common to give something up for Lent, especially something that we enjoy. My family traditionally gives up sweets and desserts. I typically give up snacking in between meals in addition. I've known people who have given up pants (wearing skirts all during Lent) or even sleeping in their bed. Other sacrifices could include watching TV or movies, listening to music, or the internet. I'll admit, these sacrifices don't sound like pleasant things to do.
So why do we sacrifice during Lent (or at all)? We may think, "I would die if I gave that up!" But, that is the beautiful and wonderful point of sacrifice. Sacrifice and self-denial mean dying to ourselves and what we want for the sake of others and for the sake of Christ. It means being willing to give up something that we love or enjoy for the love of God. That may not sound like that worthy of a cause to some. But let's put it into another perspective.
So if God Himself can sacrifice himself for unworthy sinners as ourselves, why could we not sacrifice a small part of ourselves for someone infinitely worthy as He? If God gave an unfathomably tremendous gift to us through his sacrifice, why could we not give even a small gift of sacrifice back? If God was willing to go to such sacrificial lengths for sins which were not his own, why could we not make even a minor sacrifice for sins which are indeed our own?
But remember - Lent is not only about misery! Well, it isn't about misery to begin with. But, it is also about seeking to deepen our spiritual lives and our relationship with God. It is an especially blessed time where we should make a strong effort to pray more, or go to Mass or confession more, or anything to deepen our prayer life. We should try to do some more reading of Scripture or other spiritual reading. Howsoever we choose to do it, we should seek to grow closer to God and to grow spiritually. Doing this will be what really makes our sacrifices all the more fruitful!
So, dear readers, as we rapidly approach the beginning of Lent, let's try and find areas of our life that could use a little discipline, or a little extra oomph. Let's try to grow in self-denial for the sake of God, and strive to grow closer to Him through deeper and more frequent prayer. Let's make this Lent an awesome one!
Happy Mardis Gras! Eat up!