[ WordBytes on Lenten Topics ]
Next, read Mark 10:32-40.
Here is Jesus leading His disciples toward Jerusalem. He is also leading His own feet toward the most severe persecution He ever faced. You and I enter into Jerusalem on Ash Wednesday. What sacrifice for Lent are you making to enhance your journey to Easter? Just as Jesus knew what sacrifice He would have to make, we should discern what God is calling us to do.
Sacrifices are supposed to make a difference. What’s the point of giving up candy for Lent if it doesn’t bring us spiritually closer to Christ?
Sometimes, God invites us to add something instead of give up something for Lent. It can be a great sacrifice, for example, to add a daily Rosary or the reading of a book on the life of a Saint or a couple of hours a week in outreach to someone who’s needy. If it changes us, if it brings us closer to God, if it helps us love others more readily, this is walking at Jesus’ side through Jerusalem to Calvary and then to Resurrection Sunday.
Whatever you choose as a sacrifice for Lent, it should not be easy. There is no value in an easy trip to Easter. Look at how James and John wanted to have it easy! They wanted the privilege of being honored with Jesus in His kingdom, and they tried the easy way to get there — they just asked for it.
Have you ever wondered why your prayers weren’t answered when you told God what problem you wanted Him to solve? God doesn’t snap His fingers and make our problems go away — although He could. Rather, He takes us by the hand and leads us deeper INTO the problem — true?
It’s not that He wants us to suffer. The Father did not want Jesus His Son to suffer, but it was the only way humankind could be redeemed. If you and I really want our problems to result in goodness and joy (in other words, if we really want God to redeem the bad situations in our lives), we have to accept that the way to get there is through the cross. We have to be willing to endure the people who are contributing to our difficulties, and in enduring them, learn patience, and in learning patience, develop unconditional love for them, and in developing unconditional love, become more fully united with God who IS love. The benefits far outweigh the sufferings, but OH the sufferings, OH how we hate them!
Jesus told James and John that to join Him in the glory of the kingdom, they would have to drink of the cup of suffering and be baptized in pain. What does baptism do? It gives us rebirth: it drowns our sins and overcomes our flesh-natures and brings us to full life in the Spirit. Making personal sacrifices is a baptism of pain that gives us that kind of rebirth.
We don’t have to go out and seek pain in order to have this rebirth. The suffering you have right now in your life is enough. Are you trying to get rid of it or are you holding the hand of Jesus and walking with Him to Calvary so you can go with Him to the joy of Resurrection where evil is conquered?
How about this idea as your sacrifice for Lent? Pick one (spiritual growth comes one baby step at a time — don’t overdo it!) troublesome situation in your life and sacrifice your desire to get rid of the person or persons involved in the problem.
(Time out for a word of caution: If you are in an abusive relationship, this is NOT the situation you are being called to endure! God does not want this abuse to continue. He does not want you or children or anyone else to be harmed. He is inviting you to get away to a safe place where you can insist that the abuser seek the proper professional help. Only after real change takes place — real healing in both of you — should reconciliation and reuniting occur. Now, back to today’s message …. )
Spend this Lent doing good to your enemy, finding ways to convey love to those who are contributing to your troubles. Do at least one good deed each day for them, even if all you can do is pray for them.
If this is the sacrifice for Lent you choose, you will be drinking of the same cup that Jesus took. You will be carrying Jesus’ cross of redemption with Him. You will discover by Easter that you’ve never been more intimate with Jesus than this, because we are closest to Him when we join Him in everything — including the cross. When we exclude the cross, trying to take the easy route, we turn our backs on the Savior who loved us so much that He suffered excruciating pain and a horrible death for us.
But when we embrace the cross with Him, we enter into the greatest heights of true love.
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© 2000 by Terry A. Modica
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