Stay focused on Lenten sacrifices

With just two weeks left in Lent, we’re pushing closer to celebrating Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of redeeming us all on the cross, taking away the sins of the world and opening the gates to heaven. That’s an incredible sacrifice to make — the most selfless and salvific act in the history of the world.

And I complain about giving up sweets for 40 days. The word “insignificant” doesn’t really cover it.

But that’s what we do during Lent, right? We offer up small sacrifices in order to become closer to God. Every time I pass up a donut (and after groaning about it, then realizing I shouldn’t be groaning about it), I try to take a few seconds to remember why I’m not diving into that glazed bit of paradise.

But after being fully Catholic for nearly eight years now, I’m still learning the ropes to this whole Lenten sacrifice thing. Do I understand the concept? Absolutely. Do I make my best effort to stiff-arm temptation when it comes charging in? Generally. But what I’m still trying to wrap my mind around is what I call the Lenten loopholes.

I know Sundays technically aren’t part of Lent. I can count to 40 as well as the next editor (so, barely). I understand Sundays are a day of celebration and have been since, well, the first Easter. But I’m not going to lie — when I dive into my Sunday morning donut, and my after-lunch dessert and my late-night Sunday sundae, it feels wrong — satisfying and delicious, but wrong.

But this isn’t the only blurred line. Recently I found out feast days are fair game, too. (Don’t think I won’t remember that next year.)

And at least several times a week, my wonderful, devout wife and I will argue about what exactly constitutes a sweet. For example, she was shocked I would eat the banana bread she made, claiming its sugar content most definitely made it a sweet. This didn’t make sense to me, considering I can guilt-freely eat bananas and bread.

Also discussed at great length this Lenten season: granola bars (yes, unless they have chocolate chips); sugary cereals (Raisin Bran is OK, but Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch are not); strawberry shortcake, we decided, was absolutely (and unfortunately) banned; fruit juices were OK, but chocolate milk was a no-go.

Now, all these conversations were crazy when you get down to it. Eating Fruity Pebbles or a granola bar with chocolate chips — these aren’t decisions my salvation hinges upon (thank goodness). And I’m starting to realize that if I have to justify something either before or after I eat it, while it might not break the letter of the law, it certainly goes against its spirit.

We’ve all got two weeks left. We can do this. Focus on Christ’s sacrifice and try to realize there are much bigger things to worry about than whether syrup on your pancakes is forbidden. (It’s not.)

Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly.