Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
Guest Auther: Gaby De Jesus
For as long as I can remember I have been a rule follower. As a kid I always tried my best to obey every command of my parents, to never cross my teachers and coaches, and to follow the golden rule because that was the right thing to do. Being a rule follower also meant that I did everything I possibly could to stick to my chosen sacrifice each time the liturgical season of Lent came around. It is precisely for that reason why I was caught off guard when all of a sudden I found within myself a lack of motivation to uphold my Lenten sacrifices during my senior year of college.
Just like every other year in college, I had intentionally prepared for Lent by sitting down with the Lord and allowing Him to tell me the sacrifices He willed for me to make. As a result of that time of prayer, I had formally written in my journal one sacrifice I was going to make for each of the three foundational pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. However, it wasn’t long after I set those sacrifices that my drive to maintain them for the duration of those forty days drastically decreased. In fact, it was only the day after Ash Wednesday when I fell through on my sacrifices for the first time. Although I still recognized my internal desire to please the Lord, my immediate reaction to my own lack of zeal was to condemn myself. I allowed the devil to creep in and feed me lies such as, “You’re losing your faith” and “You’re turning away from God because you can’t even keep up with three simple sacrifices.” Never before had maintaining Lenten sacrifices been such an insurmountable struggle for me, so I became very discouraged.
Convinced that I was failing to do the will of God, I continued on from Ash Wednesday with a sustained feeling of despair until God called my name and told me to arise. The Word of God is truly like a sword, and it was during the first Friday of Lent that year that the Lord pierced my heart with His truth as I heard the first reading at Mass. Coming from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, it expressed a cry of the Lord addressing those who fast and carry on their own pursuits. The part that truly hit me was the second half of the reading which says:
“Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.”
– Isaiah 58: 4 – 7.
In that short passage from Scripture a ray of light was cast into my heart, and in hearing those words the Lord allowed me to realize that the fasting He truly desires is the sacrifice that comes from loving as Christ loves. Lent is a journey to the cross, and it is a time when we are called to follow Jesus into the desert and to imitate Him in His sacrifice. Jesus’ own Lenten journey ended on a cross where he gave His life to take away the sins of the entire world in order to reconcile us with the Father. If Jesus’ Lent ended on a cross, then shouldn’t ours end on a cross too?
What started as self-discouragement at my own human weakness ended in God revealing to me what the season of Lent is truly about. After coming to this realization, my attitude towards Lent drastically changed. I was no longer fixed on making sure I followed my sacrifices down to the last detail. What I was more focused on was loving like Jesus loves and willfully accepting every opportunity I was given to be His hands and feet, and this looked different every day. I gave it my absolute best to stick with the sacrifices I initially set, but I was no longer upset when I failed because I knew my overall intention was to perfect my charity and some days that meant giving up my time in front of the Blessed Sacrament to help a friend in need. In the end, as long as I chose to do that which was most charitable and good, the action itself didn’t matter.
The true journey of Lent is not about setting observances and seeing how well we can keep them – that would only be a measure of human strength. If we make sacrifices only to feel better about ourselves when we keep them, then our sacrifices are being made in vain and we fool ourselves by thinking we have attained the next level of holiness. Holiness comes from doing the will of God in every moment, and the will of God for us is always to love. Lent is really about perfecting the way we love, perfecting our charity, so that when it’s time for the Passion we are ready.
As we enter into this season of Lent, I encourage you to still present your intended sacrifices to the Lord, but to not see it as a task or an item that needs to be crossed off your list each day. He does not want you to prove to him that you can refrain from coffee or sweets for forty days, but rather, He wants you to show Him how not having coffee or sweets leads you to rely more on Him. Do not be discouraged by your failures during this time, for even Jesus fell three times when He was carrying His cross up to calvary. In every moment choose to love – whether it be by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, proclaiming liberty to captives, or sheltering the homeless – and never tire of loving. If we can accomplish that, then we are sure to rise with Him on the third day.