Lent, Suffering, and Sunglasses
It’s that time of year again. Half of the Catholic world is off Facebook (I’m not), offering up creamer in their coffee (I’m not), and avoiding chocolate like the plague (I’m trying to!).
I recall several Lents ago, I was struggling with simply offering up sweets, and being tempted by things I’m NOT usually tempted by, like over-priced peanut M&Ms in a vending machine in the cafeteria at my junior college.
Why is this even a big deal?! I’d mentally ask myself as I sulked away without my treat. Chocolate is not evil!!!
No, chocolate is not evil. Neither is coffee creamer or Facebook. But what I began to understand that day is that the point of giving up something is not because the thing is bad, but because it IS good. Any woman will testify to the positive qualities of chocolate, but the positive qualities of GOD far outweigh anything chocolate can offer. By detaching from a lesser good, it allows me to refocus myself, my wants, and my purpose on THE Good.
This process takes a while though, I’ve noticed, and I always have to deal with a lot of incidents like my vending machine story. The harder I try to forsake an attachment to something, the more I see it, and the more I want it!
It is in THOSE moments that the true purpose of Lent is made manifest. That struggle to say no (or say yes, if you took on extras for Lent instead of giving something up) is what wins ground in your soul for Christ. It is a battle, and the struggles I’m facing to keep up my Lenten resolutions are the weapons in my hands. It takes strength to fight, and it’s often unpleasant. That’s ok. The suffering will pale in comparison to the glory.
My mom used to share a quote by William Penn when I was down in the Lenten Dumps: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.”
Christ lived it; so must I.
I was driving home from work one day, and as is typical of 5pm that time of year, the sun was right in my eyes. Annoyed, I felt around for my sunglasses, trying to keep my eyes on the road. The thought occurred to me (from my guardian angel no doubt, I don’t have such pious thoughts on my own) “why don’t you offer the discomfort of the sun in your eyes for the Poor Souls in Purgatory?”
I knew about those Poor Souls; the aching, yearning, pleading for Heaven. They’re so close they can almost taste it, but must remain outside until their souls are fit for Paradise. My heart always goes out to them when I think of them, and this blinding drive home from work was no exception. Just as I steeled my will to offer my minor suffering for my friends in limbo, my fumbling hand located the delinquent sunglasses. After thinking for a second, I left them were they were, and stared into the glare of my windshield as I drove home. All of a sudden, my suffering had a purpose. There was MEANING in it. I didn’t just accept suffering, I wanted to suffer; not for me, for them, so they could go Home.
Then it clicked: The Cross. THAT is how Jesus was able to suffer. He was thinking about me. That gave Him the strength to press on, to bleed, to languish, and to die. For me. So I could go Home.
Remember the cross when the chocolate cravings come rushing in, and Jesus did it for YOU. Find a purpose for your suffering, and love like Christ.
Have a Blessed Lent!
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24