Did you just examine your conscience as hard as I did and look down on yourself for your actions recently? Or even actions that have accumulated over years that you haven’t truly taken the time to think about? Maybe it’s been quite a bit of time since you’ve truly considered the effects your actions have on your relationship with God, your family, your friends, your “enemies”, and especially yourself.
Well, my friend, you are not alone. However, now that you have re-read these readings and been reminded that you are on this earth for something besides your own well-being, you are responsible for following these commandments to the best of your human ability. No pressure, right?
I, personally, have several things to work on this Lent. Just a little precursor to this reflection: I want you to know that I write straight from my heart and showcase my mistakes and failures in an attempt to help others. I have no shame in this because that very kind of raw honesty is what gives us life, enhances who were are as human beings and shows God that we are, in fact, aware of our shortcomings.
That being said, I will now share with you some of my failures so far this Lent (and yes, I realize we are only 6 days in. Good start, right?):
– Up until today, I had not successfully identified what I wanted to “give up” or what I wanted to “change” about myself for the glory of God this Lenten season. I have done this for the past couple of years. Ash Wednesday sneaks up on me, which I blame it on a hectic schedule (not an excuse) and then I wait until the following Monday to start my Lenten journey. “Me, me, me.” That’s what ringing in my ears as I type this. Thank God for his forgiveness of my selfishness — for acting like starting my journey should be about when I’m ready.
– I ate meat on Ash Wednesday. I brought chili for lunch, honestly completely forgetting what I was taught my entire life — don’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday OR Friday’s during Lent. One of my wonderful coworkers was quick to remind me, and yet, because I was too lazy and selfish to eat something smaller or go get something without meat, I ate it.
It can only go up from here, right? Luckily for me, YES!
Today I had the honor of being in my hometown of Albany, GA at my beautiful church, St. Teresa’s, with my selfless, God-fearing mother, and something wonderful happened. I was sitting in the pew, beating myself up for being, in my mind, the only person failing to follow my Lenten plan of bonding with God and receiving his blessings when Deacon Jay Dallas took to the pulpit to deliver his homily. This man was on fire with the Holy Spirit.
He reminded us that this is a time for blessings to be poured out onto us, IF we are willing to accept the challenge. It’s not about the ten pounds you’re hoping to lose by cutting out sweets. It is about the GLORY of GOD. It is about how our sacrifice gives glory to Him. Not us. How our small changes in our daily routine, setting aside a time to simply sit and listen to Him or go to daily Mass twice a week, builds our relationship with Him. How our small acts of love towards others give glory to Him. How helping a stranger with something gives glory to Him. How holding back the harsh words you were about to speak about someone gives glory to Him.
Remember this. I had switched the focus to myself and what I could give up to better myself. Not my relationship with God. Set yourself aside and place every bit of your focus on the One that hung on a cross and died for us. On the One who wants nothing less than pure ecstasy to take over each one of us. On the One who wants to provide every single need we have. But we must be willing to let Him in to do so.
I will hold my tongue when I am about to say something that would do nothing but ruin someone’s otherwise good name. I am going to stop when I see someone that needs help. I am going to focus on my relationship with Christ rather than giving up the sweets to lose ten pounds. I am going to sit and listen to Him. I am going to make it to daily Mass at least twice a week. And by God, I am going to show His love to others through the joy that He has placed in me and allows
me to show with a simple smile.
You can too. We are in this together. You will not be alone a single step of the way. Cry out to Jesus.
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Sarah Dixon is the Assistant Editor for the Diocese of Savannah’s Southern Cross newspaper in Savannah, GA. She enjoys laying in the park doing absolutely nothing and smiling at those passing by. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: http://api.ning.com/files/aJLZ8vGhTkrb-pLH*kdJfYs87uzA77aoDKTL52pBLx5GvNkW9O9A2PmqPkbOMs8kYUvOlV4DtfbMvtv9RtvCi7iQFxKrO94t/praisejesus.bmp