Thursday, 10 March 2011


O Jesus who for love of me
did bear Thy cross to Calvary
in Thy sweet mercy grant to me
to suffer and to die with Thee

I remember this prayer from my childhood, it was said during the Stations of the Cross, between stations, as the priest walked from one to the next. I knew the prayer by heart, but, as a small child, I was a little worried about the 'suffer and die with Thee' part, imagining the pain and torture of death by crucifixion. So, there was always a certain reserve in the way I prayed: how could  God want me to suffer and die a horrible death? After all, He loves me. When you love someone you want good things for him/her: in my childish mind, good things were always nice things-sweets, treats, trips out and so on. It would not occur to me until sometime later that suffering can be a blessing in disguise, almost always so, when freely undertaken for the love of God.
The season of Lent calls us to accept  freely a degree of suffering through renunciation of  self. We deny ourselves something that we enjoy or  find pleasurable. Choosing to 'give up' or deny ourselves, helps us on the road to gaining mastery over our selfish desires. It teaches us to say 'no' to our own will and 'yes' to God's will for us.
For many of us, I suspect, the 'giving up' of something for Lent can mean  certain savings to the wallet or purse.In Lent, we are often encouraged to donate what we have saved to  charity, which is one way to help others. On that subject, I  agree with  Fr. Ray Blake:

"One of the things that annoys me is that Lenten discipline; fasting, abstaining, even almsgiving, has been taken over by Catholic aid agencies. Despite sharing many people's problems with Cafod, I have to ask where else do we send money for emergency relief?
I do resent the notion that fasting and abstainence should be presented, especially in our schools, in terms of the cash value to aid charities. "I fast in order to save, in order to give to an orgainisation that gives to the poor", has a hint of commercialisation, literally the cash value of fasting.
Primarily fasting and abstainence are acts of worship, they go together with prayer. A by product is a strengthening of the will, a cutting loose of ties that bind us to Self, much less important might or might not be more spare cash, health benefits etc. Almsgiving is important too but Jesus expects us to use it as a way of getting involved with the poor, using a "agency" of some kind seems a bit like "buying in services" to distance ourselves from face to face giving."

Happy Lent to all readers- just think of the riches you will be storing up in Heaven by self denial and the taking up of your cross to follow Jesus!

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