As a small child many years ago, I approached the Lenten season by asking, “What should I give up?” No more cookies after school, no desserts, no fighting with my younger brother (although that rarely worked out for long), no television, no gossip, no misbehavior of any kind (again, a hard one after a few days). I believed such examples of “giving up” were real and important sacrifices which I presented as gifts to God.
In later years, the popular practice of giving something up was set aside, and people were encouraged to do something more. Rather than taking away something we enjoyed from our lives, we were supposed to find something better to add to it. Praying the rosary, reading the Bible, attending weekly adoration, or participating in daily mass. Again, these extra activities were sacrifices offered up to God.
When I pray the rosary on my commute to work, I feel a comfortable closeness to Jesus by spending that extra time with Him. Meditating on the holy mysteries also allows me to associate Christ’s difficulties with the daily trials of people around me, and I pray for those going through their own agonies or who need help in their marriages or who need a reminder to look upward to transfigure the focus of their lives toward God. But there is still something lacking in my Lenten journey.
I miss the strength I receive through the repeated giving up of something I enjoy. It may sound silly to say out loud, but by successfully and repeatedly resisting the urge to eat that cookie, I feel emboldened to realize that I also have the inner strength to resist the temptation of something larger or more important. Maybe I do have the strength to refrain from arguing with a family member, or to resist the urge to gossip, or to take a deep breath and walk away from people whose attitudes are stumbling blocks on my path to the Lord. The combination of doing more of what is good and giving up what are even just small sacrifices gives me strength and a renewed closeness to our Lord.
But, how does this Lenten sacrifice combination relate to our efforts of imitating the love of Jesus on the sidewalks of El Paso? Because Jesus did the same thing over and over again for us. Think of the example of His forty days in the desert where He fasted, giving up food, and He prayed. Although the devil tried his best to tempt Him, Jesus was strengthened, not weakened, by His fasting and His prayers. He resisted temptation. Jesus did both giving up and adding more.
Jesus gave up everything to become a human being. Giving up His place in Heaven to suffer and die for people who He knew would continue in their sinful ways was not an encouraging reason to become human. But Jesus agreed to come into the world as a tiny baby and grow up to be a man who would give strength and hope to those who need Him and want to follow in His way.
Acting as His messengers today, we can share God’s strength and hope with those who need Him. We can help women in crisis pregnancies to give up the lure of the supposedly easy fix of abortion by offering them more – more of our love. We can help women to see that their current situation does not need to be a crisis, and, instead, to see that they are strong enough to give up that feeling of crisis by saying yes to the miracle of life growing within them. We can ease their difficulties in the form of practical assistance, medical care, and whatever support they need to give up despair and accept life.
How? Fortunately, we don’t have to do it all. There are wonderful, supportive groups that are already organized and ready to give support to pregnant women, new mothers, fathers and families who need their help. Our sacrifices can help these groups to help others in the same way that Jesus sent out his disciples to help others.
First, we need to give up our apathy. Give up our willingness to let others save the mothers and their preborn babies who are threatened by abortion. Give up our comfort zone of closing our eyes to the real and unmistakable horrors being inflicted upon the tiny babies and the women who do not know where to turn. Only then, can we offer any real sacrifice to our Lord. When we open our hearts to the truth and God’s light, we will find ways to help pregnant mothers who are lost in a lonely desert.
There are as many ways to help as there are people willing to try. Loose pocket change can be deposited in a box each day and donated to Southwest Coalition for Life. Our children will recognize the sanctity of life when we take them shopping and let them choose baby clothes and supplies to be donated. Collecting diapers, formula and other necessities by hosting a baby shower for Project Gabriel or our parish Reverence for Life groups is a practical way to assist mothers in need. Rather than going out for a nice restaurant dinner, we can donate to Guiding Star the money that we would have spent. Giving up one specialty coffee each week of Lent would mean at least $30 ($5 times six weeks) available to donate to pro-life groups who give away all that they receive to those in need. By searching our hearts, we can find our own personal way to do more and offer that small sacrifice to our Lord.
The question is, “Will we give up remaining in our comfort zone and actively do more to help God’s precious children – both mothers and babies?” If we won’t, who will?