The generations that have gone before us understood that sacrifice had an irreplaceable value, not only in Christian life but also for family and social life. For better or for worse, this has been lost today. Today’s young (and not so young) people can’t even smell it. That is why they ridicule and scorn it.
In my parents’ generation, for example, it seemed normal for a woman to choose to remain single in order to look after her brother who was a priest, or her invalid mother…, as well as lending a hand to other members of the family such as nephews and nieces or even neighbours… For years these women took a break in their lives to devote themselves to other people. And often it was not possible to cancel this free commitment, because by the time they were able to free themselves from this “conscientious” duty, it was too late. They had no choice but to maintain their single status until the end.
If this were told today, who would understand it? It would seem very immature and servile on her part, and macho and arrogant on the part of the beneficiary. But is there anyone sharp enough to sniff out the virtue that lies at the heart of this sacrifice? The normal response is to frown and dismiss it as pathological to say the least. It’s a waste of a life!
Whether this is true or not, our forerunner generations perceived something that is totally alien to us: that we are interdependent! We have rights and duties. Moreover, this kind of sacrifice is ultimately the cornerstone on which family and community life is built. Is it not true that some of our difficulties in keeping our marriages, families and Christian communities together are the result of our giving up this kind of sacrifice?
We are in the midst of Lent. Let us avoid the ridiculousness of believing that what the Church is asking of us is the patchwork of substituting fish for meat one day, or giving a little alms, or going to Sunday Mass one day if it fits into my schedule. If we don’t understand that it’s about “training ourselves to give ourselves“, we won’t even have a sniff of what it’s all about.
And we need to train ourselves because we are too comfortable. We also need to go on a spiritual diet because we are fed up with foolishness. Some of this and more is what Lent is all about: training us for Easter, that mystery of death and resurrection that is hidden in true love. It is not about punishing ourselves, but about understanding that we will not survive if we do not take care of each other. Not the petty “take care of me because I’m paying…“. So start by giving the gift of time, to others and to God. And cut out some of your silly whims.
Juan Carlos cmf