I woke up today with a rumbling and a slight ache in my stomach. Nothing unusual, just normal hunger pangs. As I pondered what I wanted to eat for breakfast I was struck with the realization that I would not be satisfying my breakfast cravings today, because today is Ash Wednesday... A day of fasting and abstinence... no meat, and little food.
Most Catholics go through this day as an obligatory chore. I know plenty who stay up until midnight just so they can eat a full meal before bed. Some may wear their ashes proudly, but most go home and wash them off before they go out in public. Others may take the time to say extra prayers or do spiritual exercises, but most move through the day grudgingly, contemplating the food they are missing, taking out their bad mood on others around them. Most will not realize their complaints and minor hunger pains are perfect examples of first world problems.
Catholics love to discuss what they have voluntarily given up for Lent. Most people give up some tempting treat such sweets, or snacks, or even alcoholic beverages. Some people chose to add something to their daily lives like reading scripture, praying the rosary, or even physical exercise. Some Catholics take the penitential time of Lent very seriously and find things to give up, or things to add that will really challenge them. However, most won't go too far outside their comfort zone. Most will say, "I gave up chocolate, and it will be very hard, but I can still have it on Sunday."
I would like to offer my readers a Lenten challenge. When your tummy is grumbling, and your mood has turned sour from the pains of fasting, offer your suffering up for a child who has no food at all. When your cravings kick in and you want to give in and eat a burger on Friday, offer up your cravings for a family who is suffering from a great loss. When Sunday arrives and you want to indulge, offer up your Sunday indulgence for a child suffering from an incurable illness.
This is not to suggest one person's sacrifice is greater than another's, each sacrifice depends on the will of the individual. It is to suggest that you make each sacrifice count. To make your sacrifice give meaning to something beyond your own suffering. There are lots of needs in this world to offer our sacrifices for. Turn your Lenten sacrifices into deeds for a greater need, and maybe by Easter it will become a daily habit!
What have you given up for Lent?