A few years ago, my little girl’s birthday fell on Good Friday. I suggested to her, that out of love for Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross, it might be a good thing to put off her birthday celebration until Saturday. With the beautiful heart of a child, she agreed to this plan.
Some adults felt that we were punishing our child by not ‘letting’ her celebrate her birthday on Good Friday. I think they might have missed the point. Sacrificing is an act of love….not a punishment. It is something we willingly offer up to God, not something that He is taking away.
How many Catholics fear that they could go to hell if they have eaten meat on a Friday, or as our pastor jokes, use it as an excuse to eat lobster bisque? Again, adults often miss the meaning of the sacrifices.
When a sick child cries at night, do we consider it a punishment to get out of bed and attend them? No, it is an act of love and commitment. Certainly it is expected (as Catholics are expected to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent), but the act itself is carried out from a desire to love our child. This is the meaning of the Lenten sacrifices, offering up something that we like, out of a desire to love Christ and grow closer to him.
Christ could have redeemed us with the sweep of an arm, or the bat of an eye, but suffering was the hardest thing to do. Love requires doing the things that are not easy, but difficult. I can say, “I love my husband.” That’s easy. It is harder to put up with his bad moods, or wash his dirty underwear. (I am sure he would say living with me is not always a picnic either.) These are much truer tests of my love. Words are easy to say, demonstrating love is more challenging.
As we prepare for Easter Sunday, we look forward to the returning sweetness of the things we gave up for Lent. It always surprises me though, that they don’t seem as sweet as the feeling of giving something up out of love for the Lord. Happy Easter!