Thursday After Ash Wednesday

Listen to the Podcast.

“Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.”

It’s kind of a paradox, this Christian faith of ours.  Today’s Responsorial Psalm is just one example.  We’re blessed if we delight in the law of the Lord.  Here we are, just beginning Lent, a time of penance, but we’re called to delight in the sacrifices we’re asked to make.

If we’re doing it right, this is a time of giving things up, a time of doing more, yet we delight in that.  We’re even asked to meditate on God’s law day and night.

Throughout Church history we see examples of saints who made huge sacrifices, including martyrdom, yet they were full of joy.  Very few of us will ever be asked to give up our lives for the faith, but if we are, we’re expected to do it happily, blessing our tormentors.

That’s a big order.  None of us really knows for sure how we’d react in that situation.  But we all know someone who can’t be bothered to fast for two days, or to abstain from meat for eight days.  You ask them what they’re doing for Lent and they tell you that they’ve given up some trivial thing, maybe even something that they never enjoyed to begin with.

No, most of us will never be called on to be martyrs.  But we are called to do things that may be incredibly difficult.  How we respond says a lot about our faith.  Some couples refuse to follow Church teaching on birth control.  In spite of the fact that natural family planning is by far the most reliable form of birth control, it takes effort and the occasional sacrifice and that’s just too much for some folks.  It’s much easier to take a pill every day in spite of the proven connection between those pills and cancer.

Think about that for a minute.  Once in a while, not that often really, NFP requires a couple to abstain from sex.  Most of the time, thought not always, this is more of a sacrifice for the man than for the woman.  Rather than show his love for his wife by the simple act of postponing his own gratification, many men prefer to ask the woman they love to take a drug that could cause her to have serious health problems down the road.  That’s love?

Heck, we all know people who can’t even be bothered to go to mass once a week.  There are 168 hours in a week, but spending just one of them in church is asking too much.

No, the “old-fashioned”  idea of sacrifice may be foreign to many of us, even during Lent.  That’s too bad.  Sacrifice truly can make us joyful.

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