This winter has been so very long and cold. It almost feels sacrificial just to go to school or work in this frigid weather. It brings to my mind, ideas about what sacrifice really during this season of Lent.
Catholics have certain traditions for Lent including the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays. Unfortunately, in too many families (including mine) the practice becomes an excuse to treat ourselves to a fish fry or lobster dinner rather than being a sacrificial offering.
Catholics make sacrifices during Lent for several reasons. Denying ourselves certain pleasures helps us to discipline ourselves by focusing on spiritual things rather than physical ones. We also abstain from meat on Fridays to emphasize and remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Before Christ laid down His own life for our sins, animals were sacrificed to honor the Lord. Animal sacrifice is no longer necessary as Christ has paid the ultimate price to free us from our sins.
Often, we start out with the best of intentions, but fall into patterns of behavior that we follow mindlessly, without thinking about why we are doing what we are doing. A dear priest brought this to my attention one Friday night. I wanted to impress him, so I made salmon, scallops, asparagus and rice. He enjoyed it thoroughly, but teased me that it was not sacrificial at all and that he would need to give up something else to compensate.
It became apparent to me that I had forgotten what meatless Fridays were all about. It should be a time to make a simple meal as a sacrifice to God. How can we correct our thinking about this Lenten Sacrifice?
One idea is to make pancakes, soup, or grilled cheese sandwiches and donate the money we would have spent on a more elaborate dinner. Some families put this money into their Lenten Mite box and donate it to their church at the end of Lent.
Another idea is to invite a less fortunate family over for dinner or bring dinner to them.
Still another is to spend a little extra time in prayer before dinner thanking God for all the ingredients that go into making the food and for the hands that prepared the dinner. This can help our families focus on how blessed we are to have food available to us.
Offering things up gives a chance to exercise our spiritual muscles. Just like the muscles in our bodies, if we do not exercise our spiritual muscles they will become weak. Denying ourselves also helps us to recognize the needs of others. How many times since disasters in Haiti, Thailand or even here, have I stopped myself from making dinner in order to finish the leftovers in the fridge? I can’t justify throwing food away while I am looking at the pictures of people starving on television. Lastly, doing without some pleasures, focusing on the meaning of Lent and looking forward to the glory of Christ’s resurrection on Easter (ultimately heaven) will enhance the sweetness of that time. God Bless.
Copyright 2010/revised 2015