Good Friday is a day of contemplation, reflection, and fasting. I still think of myself as someone who is still fairly new to her faith. This Easter I am will be celebrating my 13th birthday in the Church but I am still learning and still growing in my faith. It is definitely a journey and not always an easy one. I am often convicted and then filled with grace as I listen to the homily and receive the Eucharist. There are times I leave Mass full of reflection and conviction and I strive to do better throughout the week: To love more, to forgive more easily, to be more patient, to live as an example of Jesus’ love, grace, and mercy. I am a sinner and while I do my best to live a good life filled with love and charity I make mistakes. I judge, do not easily forgive others, and I am not as patient as I should be with others.
With that being said, I find that Lent gives me time for introspection, contemplation, reflection, and being open to grace. I have the hardest time with fasting. When people think of Lent they often think of giving up sweets and chocolate. And while that is how I initially started my journey 13 years ago starting with the “easier” things to give up, I have learned that fasting is not just giving up the sweet things it also means fasting from things that me less of the type of person I want to be. About 5 years ago we started fasting from television during Lent. It was really hard for me. I love television and the mental break it gives me from reality. But I found that my kids and I were too invested in the characters on the screen versus the people in real life. So we gave up television for Lent. It was hard the first time and has become easier each year. This year even the littlest one knew that we were giving up television and asked if we could play in the basement away from the tv on the first day of Lent because the temptation of asking to turn on the television would be too much. We spent a couple of hours in the basement. While I crocheted she played with her doll house and dollies making up stories for them. Giving up sweets and television are very tangible ways to practice fasting.
But there are the others ways to abstain and they are not as easy for me. I am also learning to abstain from judgmental thoughts and an unwillingness to forgive easily. I still struggle with fasting from social media, but I am learning that I need to give that one up more regularly. Too often I compare myself to others and lament my own inadequacies in my parenting journey. That is not a healthy place to be because most people only post the good things they want people to see. Other people post only the negative things that are affecting us. There needs to be a balance and I do not often see it on Facebook. There are a few pages that give me peace, grace, and balance and I try to stick with those. And can I say that #Catholictwitter has been kind of amazing this Lenten season? I started following priests, brothers, and nuns on Twitter. I almost never post on Twitter, but I have become enriched and more reflective by reading their tweets, especially during Holy Week. But they are not always so serious. They find humor in their chosen vocation. Knowing that they are not always serious, makes my own faith journey a little easier: To know that I can be silly and devout, to know that I can still hold onto my beliefs while loving others, to be forgiven when I sin. It’s a beautiful and sometimes arduous journey.
This brings me back to today: Good Friday. A day in years past that was really difficult for me because I like food, I like sweets, I like being comfortable and Good Friday takes away all of that. It is in the uncomfortable that I find my true self and it’s not pretty. I am not a nice person when I am hangry and focused on hunger and food. I am not as patient and forgiving. I do not want to be contemplative and reflective. I want to eat. I want to feel comfortable. And I want my kids to fall in line. But I have learned over the years to offer it up. My kids will often hear me mutter to myself during Lent, “Just offer it up. OFFER.IT.UP.” It’s a little silly, but oh so true. Saying it aloud makes me try just a little bit harder. And also, my kids see Mama struggles sometime, but she tries and I think that’s a good example to give them. We are not perfect creatures and showing our children our own vulnerability will hopefully make them more open to understanding their mistakes, asking for forgiveness, and sometimes just offering up their struggles to Jesus because we need a little divine help in getting through this journey.
Jesus sacrificed his life for ours so that we can have eternal salvation. It puts things in perspective for me. It makes me feel rather petty and small to be worried about my own comfort. And now, I look forward to these times of forced discomfort. Because let’s be real, sometimes we do not do things unless forced. And Lent and Good Friday is a good time to do things out of my comfort zone. It is a set time in my life to be more focused on what the kind of person I want to be for myself and for others. I’m not saying I can’t do this all year long, but as time goes by, I start to fall in my old habits and Lent becomes a time of growth and renewal.
Today I was reminded of my faith journey. Not only because of Good Friday, but because of the family faith lesson I did with my son on his journey to receive his first Eucharist. Today the lesson was “Be the Light!” My son and I read several instances in the Gospels where Jesus showed mercy and love to everyone, even to the ones that others thought were undeserving. My son was asked to list some ways he can be like Jesus and while he filled out his sheet, I thought brought back to my own thoughts of how I can live like a light into the world.
I have also started to look forward to attending the Stations of the Cross during Lent. Each time I attend I find something that speaks to me. Today it was Station 9 when Jesus falls the third time. The leader prayed from the booklet we use: The Way of the Cross,” …Almighty and eternal God, you permitted your Son to be weakened, crushed, and profaned so that He might rise from the dead freed from the ravages of sin. Help us to accept our weaknesses and failings as forerunners of our glorious resurrection in union with your Son.” Asking for help to accept our weaknesses and failings made me think of a recent story I shared about how I am learning to accept my mistakes and perceived failures and learning to recalculate when situations do not go as expected. Asking for help is powerful when facing trouble.
There was a time I dreaded Lent and Good Friday and now I look forward to it. I look forward to this time where I can be introspective and learn not only to receive grace but also to give grace when I rather not.
As we turn the corner towards Easter how can I pray for you? How can we each be examples of God’s love and mercy especially in a time of political and social discord? How can we be a light unto one another when the rest of the world seems so negative. I wish you peace at this time. Please pray for me as we come to the end of our Lenten journey this year and that I may continue my journey towards peace, grace, and mercy. Peace be with you.