Snickers and Salvation

by gary-foote on April 18, 2011

Yesterday we began the holiest week of the year, Holy Week. Most of us attended Mass on Ash Wednesday some 40 days or so ago and heard the words “From dust you have come, to dust you shall return,” or “repent and believe the Gospel.” We received our ashes, looked for other Catholics throughout the day who received their ashes too, and began to think about what we might “do” for Lent. Many of us made resolutions of some sort or another to become a better person. Often these resolutions included some type of sacrifice like giving up chocolate, alcohol, smoking, TV, or something else that fills up a part of our life. For some, the resolve to refrain from these things has been a difficult journey with only a few days left. For others, the journey may have been a short one with only a day or two of sacrifice before turning back to our normal routine. This Friday, Good Friday, will be the last Friday that most of us will attempt to abstain from meat (Remember- Good Friday is a day of both abstinence and fasting) until Lent starts next year. I don’t know what it is about Catholics and meatless Fridays, but we sure notice when we are asked to abstain from meat on a Friday. I had a friend tell me about how he had to eat meat earlier that day (it was a Friday) because it was all that was available to him. Later in the same conversation, he shared with me about how he and his wife tried a new restaurant in town the night before, and he had a great fish dinner. I asked him if it was hard not to eat meat when he went out with his wife and he said to me, “You know, I didn’t think about that. I guess we should have had fish tonight instead of last night.” I also had a teenage guy tell me that he had to eat meat on some Fridays because everything in his house was some type of meat product. I happen to know the mom of this young man, and it made me laugh because she is very health cautious and I am fairly certain that there are some fruits in veggies in his home. Anyway, we can all be very good at making excuses for doing what we want. But Lent isn’t about doing what we want but rather doing what God wants and what will lead us closer to Him.

Last night I had the opportunity to meet with a group of Catholic high school teens after they had attended the Youth Mass at their parish. As I met with them, I asked one question, “How do you look different to God today than you did when Lent started on Ash Wednesday?” As I said the question, the teens got tense. I followed up by asking, “How have you drawn closer to God this Lent and separated yourself from sin?” Again, silence. The last question I asked was, “Are you closer to God today on Palm Sunday than you were 40 days or so ago on Ash Wednesday?” One brave girl spoke up and shared, “No, I’m not. It’s been a couple of rough months.” Some of the other teens giggled and pointed out areas of sinful things that they knew each other had taken part in at parties and dances. One of the guys spoke up and said, “I haven’t bought lunch at school this entire Lent and that has been hard because my school has an awesome lunch program.” I told him that I was proud of him for sticking to his commitment and asked him how this sacrifice helped him grow closer to God. He looked up at me and said, “It really hasn’t.”

I wonder sometimes if we have become too much like the Pharisees. Have we been caught up in the “Rules of Lent” and ignored the first words we heard at the beginning of the season, “Repent and believe in the Gospel?” I’ve given up food often times during Lent as a sacrifice, and unfortunately, I’ve also had ulterior motives of trying to shed a few pounds for my own sake and not to really glorify God. Ultimately, giving up snickers won’t lead to my salvation! The great news is that although most of Lent is over, we still have three days left to get ready for Easter Tridiuum that starts this Thursday. There is still time to embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation, open the Sacred Scriptures, and do some final “spring cleaning” of our souls as we prepare for the greatest feast of the year. As we look to the rest of Holy Week, let’s not look at what has or hasn’t happened during this Lent. Instead, let’s make resolutions to grow in holiness and prepare our hearts, souls and homes to welcome the glorious resurrected Jesus Christ this Sunday. Maybe we can spiritually enter the tomb with Him on Good Friday and rise anew with Him in glory this Easter. The greatest moments of Jesus’ life took place over a three-day period; maybe we can embrace the same time frame and let God’s mercy penetrate us to the depths of our being. It’s time to get holy!

In Christ,

Gary Foote

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