Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Today is Ash Wednesday; the first day of Lent. Being raised a Catholic, I have embraced most of what this religion stands for. However, my life lessons have provided me with a strong faith in many other spiritual avenues. I wholeheartedly believe that love, peace and compassion is the ultimate goal for our time on earth. This was shared by Mohammed, Buddha and Jesus Christ. Spirituality is personal and I do not judge others for their belief systems and live my faith via my daily actions. There is nothing more annoying than those who use their religious beliefs as an excuse to harm others. Sadly, we have witnessed and been victim to some who profess their high and mighty holy calling, yet are instrumental in bringing enormous grief, strife and conflict to others. The best I can do is pray hard so they find love within themselves, for they seem to be lost in their pursuit of what Christ's true message is: to love others as you would yourself. You could pray a million rosaries and then go and break a million hearts with a harsh lash of the tongue. Hypocrites, phonies and manipulators were common in Jesus' time and more so today.
We enter Lent longing for a Newness that we cannot find within ourselves. The relentlessness of life meets what it needs in Lent. No matter how beleaguered we may get because of 'life' burdens, our faith convinces us that we are wanted by Someone who surpasses all our worries and our woes. Lent is God's way of drawing us back to himself in love. No matter what our defects may be, no matter our failures or the forgetfulness of God, the Lord asks for us again this Lent.
Lord, please take away all my resistance
Lord, please do not let me be slavish to my plans
Lord, do not let me be done in by my discouragement
Lord, let me turn over to you all my self-doubt
Lord, let me make of my life this Lent a true sacrifice to you
Lent is about rituals and tradition. We should take these 40 days to improve ourselves, to be the best we can be inwardly and outwardly. We are encouraged to sacrifice to better understand how and why Christ suffered. His example is profound. This true master talked the talk and walked the walk.
Suffering is not necessary for man's development; it is the result of violation of spiritual law, but few men seem able to rouse themselves from their "soul sleep" without it. Florence Scovel Shinn
Lent is synonymous with abstinence. Fasting means limiting oneself to one full meal on a given fast day, according to the Church. It is an obligation prohibiting the eating of meat. A true fast means refraining from all food, allowing one to cleanse the toxins and impurities from our systems. Physically, this is what Jesus did for 40 days. Spiritually, we could fast by refraining from negativity. Allow our hearts to cleanse and remove toxic thoughts and feelings so it can be open to love and forgiveness. Emotionally, we can fast by refraining from holding on to ill feelings and adversity. Letting go of our ego and unhealthy emotions can be a profound way to begin our journey of Lent. True sacrifice is being discreet about it. Those who make it obvious about their piety are not being sincere.
"We're not to blow trumpets before us as we pray. We're not to pull long faces to let everyone know of the anguish of our fasting. We're not to set ourselves on stage, play-acting at holiness to win the approval of men. If we do, we will have our 'reward' already, dust that it is: empty praise, empty self-esteem and empty bellies." Jesus Christ
I remember 'giving up' silly things as a child, such as candy, biting my nails or swearing. I didn't really like too much candy so it wasn't that big a deal. Everyone gave up something and we were encouraged to do same so if we went off track, someone would call us on it and make us feel guilty. The deeper meaning behind having children sacrifice is so they understand that by denying a treat or something we like the most is not so difficult. It is possible to refrain from indulgences and be happy. Mostly, it prepared us how to endure suffering. We all experience hardships in this life; some more than others. We wonder how God could bring tragedy and turmoil in our lives when we feel we are living as Christians and basically good lives. No one knows the answer. Life situations are simply life lessons. We learn from our mistakes and discover our strengths through how we handle our challenges. That's why we have faith to sustain us.
I was given the opportunity to learn how to be a better me by Mary Kay Slowkowski, a beautiful woman I had the honor and privilege to befriend at The Goddess Touch. She overcame agoraphobia and is a renown speaker, inspiring and motivating people all over the country. She has been on Channel 11, WTTW, with her story and accomplishments, and she enlightened me at one of her seminars. A simple way to be your very best can be found by following this exercise. Ask someone you trust one question and listen to their answers without making any comments, excuses, explanations or defending yourself. Take note of their opinion and take heed. It is amazing how a simple question can help us realize how others see us and how we can be better.
HOW CAN I IMPROVE?
gentle reminder: ashes to ashes, dust to dust