Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
As we approach the halfway point of Lent, I thought it would be a good idea to pose a question and to issue a challenge. Let’s begin with the question. Are you ready? Here goes…
Are you closer to Christ today than you were on Ash Wednesday?
Tricky, isn’t it? If I asked how you were making out with giving up sweets, coffee or Facebook you probably wouldn’t even have to think about it. On the other hand, trying to decide if you’re closer to Jesus than you were a few weeks ago can be challenging. In reality, however, that’s the point of Lent. If you abstained from candy for the entire forty days and ended up no closer to the Lord than when you started, you wasted your time. While fasting is an important part of the Lenten season, it is only part of the overall goal of growing closer to Jesus.
How can we tell if we are growing closer to Jesus? I recently wrote a blog about the topic which was also shared on the Catholic Stand website and linked to by the National Catholic Register. While I would strongly encourage you to read the entire article, I want to focus on my first question, which happens to be the subject for the challenge that I’m about to issue:
Was I grateful for everything that happened to me today (good and bad)?
If you find yourself cringing, don’t panic. That is a normal reaction. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be content with answering “no” to that question. If, for the remainder of Lent, we can make some progress in this area, there’s a very good chance that this could be our best Lent ever. Learning to be grateful for each day that the Lord gives us is a great way of expressing our love for Him. Put yourself in His shoes for a minute and think about what it would feel like to give someone a great gift and hear nothing but complaints. Every day that the Lord gives us is a gift. It is a chance to know, love and serve Him. It is a chance to gain merit and eventually live with Him in Heaven. Instead of being grateful, however, we complain…
It’s too hot.
It’s too cold.
My job is boring.
I wish I had more money.
My coworkers are annoying.
If only I was better looking.
Everyone treats me unfairly.
My pastor’s homilies are too long.
My pastor’s homilies are too short.
You get the point, right? Now, here’s the challenge. Beginning on Friday, March 28, I challenge you to not complain about anything from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. No negative words, no negative thoughts. If something unpleasant happens to you, make it a point to thank the Lord for allowing it to happen.
What do you think? Are you ready to fast from complaining for one day? I know it will be difficult and many of us will slip up, but there is much to be gained from this sacrifice. If you can’t decide whether or not to participate, here’s something that might help. On the night before He died, Jesus suffered tremendously in the garden. One of the greatest sources of His suffering was the knowledge of all the sins that would be committed by each one of us. Yes, Jesus is God and He knew every sin that you and I would ever commit and it caused Him a great deal of anguish. On the other hand, He also saw every sacrifice and act of love that we would perform until the end of time. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that we were able to ease Jesus’ suffering a bit? Every time we refrain from complaining we do just that.
If you make it through one day without complaining (or maybe complaining a little bit less than normal), the possibilities are endless. How about two, three, four or more days? How about a month, six months or several years. This simple act of self-denial could change your life and the lives of those around us.
I’m going to try it. How about you?
“Living joyful, trustful acceptance isn’t complicated. One simply offers himself to God with confidence and then accepts everything with praise and thanksgiving, seeing all as coming from God’s loving, fatherly hands.” (Fr. Michael Gaitley, Consoling The Heart of Jesus, pg. 96)