March 9, 2011




With Lent upon us I'm probably not the only one whose thoughts have been absorbed for the last little while with the list of possible Lenten penances. One can easily gather ideas for sacrifices to take on for the 6 weeks - on the net, in the journal or conversing with others about what they are giving up/taking on or what they've done in the past.

Lent every year has always been such a blessed time for me - there's something about the newness of spring breaking its way through the cold drear of winter. And since our spiritual and liturgical lives mirror our physical realities, we take to covering ourselves with the 'drear' of fasting, prayer and almsgiving in preparation and cleansing for the the day of Glory and Ressurection so quickly approaching.

But pre-lenten discernment has been different for me this year. When praying about my sacrifice for this year, I have been directed more and more to embrace MY cross - rather than embrace a different penance of my own choosing. As Fr. Benedict Groeschel says, for ourselves we pick "...a little cross made out of styrofoam, with little wheels...".

Yeah, that's MOI!

For years I have struggled with the idea of suffering. I would read stories of the Saints and puzzle at how these regular, average people delighted - nay, gloried in pain and suffering. I had even at one point wondered if there was some kind of sadism present in the Church somehow...were these saints actually enjoying the pain, and did God actually enjoy allowing this pain? I know that can't be true, but I'd be lying to say it didn't cross my mind.

(As an aside, I could never really enjoy pain - something about it just turns me right off, funny enough! I'm the biggest baby on the planet. A papercut causes dramatic swooning for me, let alone an accidental hammer to my thumb or a stubbed toe.)

So then recall what is Lent really for, exactly? It is for us to join ourselves again with Jesus and remember the depth of suffering he endured for us! And he endured his own torturous death as a little lamb being lead to the slaughter. I remember reading The Dolorous Passion of Jesus by Anne Catherine Emmerich and one scene during the passion she describes Jesus bending down not only to acquiesce to the Cross, but to actually enfold it in his arms and embrace it - almost like a person would hug their mother or their child; tenderly, with love. And I have never understood that kind of love of pain.

But that is exactly the point I was missing. Jesus didn't love the pain - He loved me and you and his suffering was for our freedom from death. It had to be done.

And so with our own crosses - those specifically tailored afflictions - we don't embrace them because sorrow or sickness is 'fun' or 'comfortable', but because God sees us, knows us and wants us to be eternally full of joy, living with him forever and ever amen. And suffering is what it takes. It has to be done! The Resurrection is not possible without the cross. It was like this for Jesus, and it is the same for us.

So for me embracing my cross will mean praising and blessing God when I am faced with continuing infertility; letting go of any lingering anger and resentment.

It will mean being calm and trusting when we may be asked to uproot our whole lives in the near future.

It will not mean 'putting on a brave face' or acting as if life is peachy-keen-puppy-dogs-and-ice cream. It will mean drawing on the Lord's deep wellspring of joy and contentment that he makes available to all of us.

Because there is good reason to be deeply and expansively grateful and bless the Lord over and over for our earthly miseries. I mean, eternity is a very long time - but it's primarily because we have a GOOD God who loves us far beyond our understanding - who we are called to emulate. And since our hardships have been slotted into our own personal redemption plan - which in and of itself is fantastically hopeful - there's no getting out of them. I might as well use those hardships to my advantage this lent...to increase and deepen my love and trust of God as well as my love for others, instead of becoming more and more mired in anger, pain and misfortune.

Many prayers for a holy and advantageous Lent for each of you.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful!

    A spiritual director once told me that Mother Teresa said we should not just accept our crosses, but embrace them. So hard to do. But experience has shown that God will help us with this if we ask.

    ReplyDelete

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What is a woman? What does it mean to be feminine? There is softness and hardness, compassion and ferocity. There is contentment and adventure, freedom and service. We're conundrums, especially to ourselves, but we all, in some way, possess beauty, creativity, intuition and love. We were made for love, and we are loved, cellulite and all. Here we aim to show every woman the richness and beauty of her own femininity and explore current issues relating to women in our world. We also wish to share our own experiences - exploring the joys and challenges of stay-at-home moms and single professionals and everyone in between. Welcome! So glad you're here!

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