Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On Sacrifice

Sacrifice is one of those things that I haven't really practiced much.  "What?" you say, "Don't you Catholics have a whole 40 day period called Lent where you are supposed to fast, pray, and almsgive?"  Why, yes we do.  And I've done what I'm supposed to do during my...five Lents I've been either Catholic or almost Catholic.  I've fasted on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I've stayed away from meat on Fridays during Lent.  I've even given stuff up.  My first Lent, I gave up smoking.  What I've found, though, is that most of the things I've given up, I've been able to console myself with the thought that it's better for me anyway.  Not once has there really been the conviction of sacrificing out of love for Christ and his Church.

A few weeks ago, at a prayer group I go to, we talked about sacrifice.  And that's where it really hit me.  We sacrifice things that are truly a sacrifice, we give where it hurts, we pray fervently.  At least, we're supposed to.  That week, I was supposed to do a small fast from something I find myself attached to.  It was hard.  It was supposed to be.  And at the end of the week, I was amazed.  Something had happened to me.  I was looking for other places to give throughout my day.  Someone interrupted my morning prayer time?  Offer it up, and recognize it as a part of my mothering vocation.  Hips hurt?  Offer it up for the growing baby inside my womb.  Someone cut me off in traffic?  Offer it up...you get the idea.

I think I must be a slow learner, because I remember when I first came into the Church hearing my mother-in-law (and others) talk about offering it up.  And I kind of understood on an intellectual level, but on a real life level the idea was completely over my head.  When something goes wrong (according to my plans) I tend to just react and not really think, so "offering it up" was always thought of too late.

But after my small sacrifice this past week, it's been easier for me to recognize those moments in my day that can also be offerings, insignificant though they may seem. 

I'm looking forward to Lent this year.  I've always loved the season, it is so rich and beautiful and full of meaning.  But this year I understand the season so much more than previous years that it seems even richer, even more beautiful.  Especially with the abundance that rules for much of the year, Lent is our opportunity to relish simplicity, to seize the day in a spiritual sense.

Even small as they are, our sacrifices, our pains, our frustrations, our inabilities, our smallness can be turned into big grace for ourselves and those around us.  Maybe you already knew that.  But it's another big lesson for me.

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