Growing up, my parents often implemented “family” penances during the season of Lent. I remember one Lent, as a household, we gave up television. That was difficult. But as difficult as it was for us kids, I now realize it was probably way more difficult for my parents who had to put up with our complaining!
Last week I spoke about fasting and abstinence. Additionally many people “give up” things for Lent. Chocolate, alcohol, television or Facebook seem to be popular things to sacrifice. Pope Francis had this to say in his Lenten message:
“Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no selfdenial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”
Whatever it is we give up, whatever sacrifices we make in our schedule to pray more, whatever monetary gifts we can give to the poor and to charity, it ought to hurt a little bit. And why should it hurt? Are we masochistic crazies who simply love pain? Of course not. If there is anyone who knows how to properly partake in the pleasures of this earth it is Catholics. Chocolate, a nice juicy steak, watching an anticipated sporting event, all the legitimate pleasures around us however, must not be sought after for their own sake, but should lift our hearts and minds to the glory and honor of God. Pleasure is not evil. But all pleasure must be directed toward God. As sinful human beings, we tend to make pleasure our final goal. A person ruled by their passions and seeking only pleasure and ease is self-centered and unhappy.
So don’t be afraid to let your sacrifice hurt a little bit this Lent. When we feel our poverty we expand and re-direct our hearts to God who suffered for us. And when we are in closer communion with Christ there is no greater pleasure.