June 1, 2023
Blessed Ash Wednesday Lenten Season 3
Sacrificing for the One You Love. While it may sound almost like a cliché, love requires sacrifice. And we really do know deeply that there is something very true about this. What good parent would not sacrifice for the sons and daughters? What good friend would not sacrifice for another friend?
Sacrificing for the One You Love: Lent: Fasting to Grow in Faith

Sacrificing for the One You Love

Sacrificing for the one we love
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Sacrificing for the One You Love. While it may sound almost like a cliché, love requires sacrifice. And we really do know deeply that there is something very true about this. What good parent would not sacrifice for the sons and daughters? What good friend would not sacrifice for another friend?

And yet sometimes it can be difficult to think about our need to sacrifice for God. After all, what could God possibly need from us? The truth is nothing. God lacks nothing. Fasting is not done for God, but rather fasting is to help us to become more aware of our absolute and total need for God in our lives.

And yet, Lent is really that time in the desert, the time of preparation marked by the incomprehensible love of Jesus who died for our sins. We are called to imitate this loving sacrifice of Jesus so that not only will we realize the most powerful love for us was born our of sacrifice, but we will have more room to pray for and support the needs of others.

And so part of Lent is to provide that time so that we can ask ourselves, “What in my life is more important than God for me?” While it is easy to think there is nothing more important than God in our lives, at the same time Lent can be the time that helps us to get our priorities in order.

Preparing for Lent
Don’t just fall into doing the same old things for Lent. Pray about what God wants you to do to become closer to me during this season of Lent. How do I need to grow in prayer, fasting and almsgiving?

The Danger of Coveting

Sacrificing for the One You Love
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Do Not Make Idols

The last two commandments have to do with the desires of our hearts. Simply put, when we desire anything more than we desire God, we fall into sin. This is not only a truth for Jews and Catholics, but it is also a truth of Buddhism. Wanting what we do not have is a type of suffering, but not a type of suffering that leads to redemption.

And so whatever it is that you decide to do, to fast, to give up for Lent, pray that God may help you to see those ways in which you make something more important than God. What is it you could not live without? What is it you need to do to set your priorities aright?

When we covet something, or someone, we create an idol. And creating an idol is expressly forbidden. And it is forbidden because the true image and likeness of God is the human fully alive. When we live as God wants us to live, when we become the person God wants us to be, it is then that we are the image and likeness of God for others to clearly see.

Fasting from What Takes Us Away From God

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So the discernment of fasting is to ask God to help you see clearly what keeps you from living out your faith fully. And so in some ways, we need to identify those things or people who lead us to sin.

Community Fasting

There are two ways we engage in fasting. We do so individually, of course, but we also enter into fasting as a community. We abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent, as well as fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This is the communal fasting that reminds us that we are the people of God, and when we realize this we pray for each other and grow with each other.

Individual Fasting

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It is also the case that we need to make a personal sacrifice. While we are the People of God, and that community is an important one, it is the community into which we are baptized. But each of us is also to seek a personal relationship with Jesus and we need to address our personal failings and personal need to grow in this relationship.

So this is the focus of these days we have been praying together. The communal fasting is provided by the Church. But our individual fasting is provided by us, hopefully in asking God to make known to you where you need to grow closer to him.

And so as we enter into Lent, I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to recognize that prayer helps us to identify what we need to sacrifice to enter more deeply into a loving relationship with God. And it is prayer that helps us to see how it is we need to better imitate God’s generosity.

Directing Your Fasting Toward God

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So identify: What keeps you from God? What is keeping you from being the father or mother God is calling you to be? What is keeping you from the son or daughter you need to be? What is keeping you from doing your job in a holy way? If you are involved in ministry, think about what it is you need to do to bring people to Jesus?

What this discernment should help us to identify, then, is the way in which there are things in our lives that keep us from holiness. For if you are a mother or father, you are called to be a holy parent. If you are a son or a daughter, you too are called to holiness. You job is hopefully something that provides you a way to be holy.

And if you think of those things you do for entertainment or as a hobby, do you consider how much time you spend doing this? When you think about the entertainment that is a part of your lives, is it the case that this is the type of entertainment God would bless? Do these things help you to become closer to God and those you love, or are these things taking you away from God and the people you love?

Fasting is for a Purpose

And so as I have said many times, Lent is not simply an exercise in willpower. It is not designed for us to discover what we can live without. Fasting is about helping us to become who it is we are meant to be.

What do you need to remove from our life? Or what do we need to get a handle on in our lives? Maybe it is not the case that what we are using or doing is bad, but it is that it is taking too much time or too much money. Perhaps we are not spending our resources in a good and holy way.

But if you discover that your phone takes to much time in your day, and you decide to fast from it, be sure to use the time or money you save for some purpose that will help you to spend more time with your family. Or, perhaps you give up something that costs some money, then give the money you save to someone in need.

By doing these things, we are directing our hearts to Jesus to ask Him to make something great of us. If fasting is about willpower, then the focus becomes on us. But if our fasting is directed to growing in holiness, then the focus is on Jesus.

And in all we do our focus should be on Jesus. And it should be on whatever is important to Jesus as well. That means that the Great Commandment is the ultimate goal. Love God and Love neighbor. And if we enter into Lent is a powerfully open way, we shall grow in both loving God and loving neighbor.

Time to decide

You have been in prayer for the past days, and at some point the time comes where you need to consider what it is you will do to fast. What sacrifice will you make to grow closer to God? What is it you will do that enables you to love your neighbor more completely?

I believe that if this decision is made to please the Lord, the desire we have to please God is powerful. It is not the case that we are always right, but if our effort is sincere, God, who sees your heart, will lead you to the right place.

Whatever You Do – Do It!

Make a good decision
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As you think in your life about fasting, perhaps you would find it helpful to enter into your fasting by having someone else to pray for your success. Maybe even more, as you engage in your fasting you will find it helpful to pray for all those who enter into fasting.

It is so easy to focus only on the problems of the world. We can get discouraged. We can complain about the way things are. But imagine how it is that things could change if we were to focus together by praying and supporting each other.

One thing that seems to be a challenge in the age in which we live is that we can feel is that we are alone. People yell at each other even over the smallest disagreements. There is violence all over the planet. There are people who are struggling to make ends meet, or to get even the most basic needs.

What if we asked God to direct our energies to prayer? What if we were to work together to pray earnestly and fervently? And what if we were to do this together? Of course the most powerful community prayer is the Mass. But how would our perspective be changed if we thought both about God and others?

So maybe ask your neighbors to pray with you. Maybe think about the people you work with and ask them if they would pray with you. Maybe your family and relatives decide to pray together. Maybe you go to a nursing home where so many of the residents may be lonely, and have a lot of time.

Lent is all about helping us to realize we are not alone. It is to help us to know that we are called both as a community, as the people of God, and we are called as individuals to follow Jesus wherever it is Jesus may lead us.

And So Let’s Pray for Each Other

Make a good decision
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So let’s commit maybe to praying for each other. There are Catholics all over the world who are really struggling, really suffering. There are so many people that are suffering because of brokenness and sin.

While fasting can be helpful for us personally, but also it can be helpful for others too. We can offer up whatever fasting we do to help parents who have lost children. We can offer our suffering for those in broken relationships, or those who are in violent relationships. Whatever the needs of others are, offer your fasting for them too.

Bible Verses to Ponder

Turning to the Scriptures
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Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”

Matthew 26:36-39

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”

Mark 14:32-36

Then going out he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”

Luke 22:39-42

When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

John 19:30

Reflection Questions to Ponder

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What keeps you from loving God as fully as you might?

What are the things or people you covet in your life?

How do you think God wants you to grow in holiness?

What barriers are in your life that keep you from growing in holiness?

Closing Prayer

Preparing for Lent
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Heavenly Father, we praise and glorify your name. We thank you for loving us. We thank you for the presence of Jesus in our lives. We thank you for all that you have done for us because you love us.

We thank you for your love because there is nothing more powerful than your love for us. You tell us that nothing can come between us and this love that you have for us. We know that you always love us, and you want so much for us, because you have made us. You know what we can be, you know who it is we can become.

As we begin this season of Lent, help us to know how to enter fully into fasting. Help us to be open to the grace we need so that what we do changes our hearts. Help us to live by your word.

And so we make this prayer in the name of your son, Jesus, for He is Your Son, You sent Him to save us, you showed us your overwhelming love for each of us by having Him die on the cross for us. In His name we pray. Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Other Helps to Grow in the Spiritual Life

Listen to the Friar’s homilies.

Participate in the Friar Book Club, where you can read along with the Confessions of Saint Augustine, and soon the Meditations for Time of Retreat and the Companion to the Summa by Walter Farrell, OP.

Search our website for devotional prayers. You can ask for people and the friar to pray for you, and you can pray for others. There are three ways you can pray the rosary. You can pray the traditional rosary (the one you may have learned as a child). But you can also pray the rosary in a tradition that comes from the Dominicans or you can pray the rosary in a tradition that comes from the Lasallians. All of the links to the rosary come with audio recordings so that you can pray the rosary in the car, on your way to work, or anytime you are otherwise occupied.

There will be other resources which you can find as well. The high school students I teach and work with will offer a reflection each day. Of course all those who ask me to pray should know that I do each day, twice a day.

And sometimes it is helpful to know what is going on in the Church, and so from time to time I post news stories from the Church too. I pray that all of you will find a deep and fulfilling personal relationship with Jesus. Nothing is more important or able to change your life than that. And I pray that this relationship with Jesus changes your life in every way. It can.

When you see the world as God sees the world, it does not mean there are not hard times or that there is not still suffering and sin, but it does mean that none of these things do you need to experience on your own. Be sure to come back tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Sacrificing for the One You Love: Lent: Fasting to Grow in Faith: Preparing for Lent Novena 2022: Day 8

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