February 27, 2009

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Make Lenten sacrifices for the right reason

Sean GallagherSometimes I feel like I’m in a perpetual Lent when I’m at home. It’s like I’m fasting all of the time.

Let me explain. It’s not uncommon for my wife, Cindy, and me to spend little time actually eating during our family meals.

A lot of time is spent getting up to fetch things out of the kitchen that we either forgot or that one of our boys has requested.

We also have developed a custom over the years at supper where we read a short story (usually a couple of pages) about a saint to the boys.

God forbid that I delay telling the story in order to eat my food while it’s still hot. There has been many a meal where, after patiently waiting for, oh, I don’t know, 30 seconds for the story, my oldest son, Michael, will say, “Daddy, are you going to read the saint story?”

OK, I’ll be honest. I’m actually happy that he wants to hear the story. I know that little inconveniences like the ones that my wife and I experience at our meals are more than worth it since I can see that my boys are growing in their faith and value sitting down together with us around our table.

But the sacrifices took some getting used to for me. I grew up as the youngest of two children. And I was the youngest among all of my cousins on both sides of my extended family.

In other words, I was rarely if ever around little kids while growing up. I didn’t know how many little, everyday sacrifices are involved in helping them to have a good life at home and to grow up well.

Maybe I didn’t know about them because my own parents accepted such sacrifices as a natural part of their everyday life. They didn’t make a big deal out of it. They just made them without thinking twice.

That is kind of what Lent is all about. It is a time to make sacrifices for the greater good of preparing oneself to grow closer to the Lord in time for the solemn and joyful celebration of his suffering, death and resurrection.

Part of making such sacrifices well is to do them in a hidden way like so many parents do each day for their children. Jesus had some advice for those who draw attention to themselves while giving of themselves for others:

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father, who sees what is hidden, will repay you” (Mt 6:16-18).

We parents, at all times in our lives with our children, and all Catholics during this holy season of Lent, need to take Jesus’ words to heart.

We need not only to do the right thing, but also to do it for the right reason.

And this isn’t a case where our Lord is shaking a scolding finger at us. He is telling us this for our own good and the good of those in our lives.

When we parents choose to make sacrifices for our children because of our love for God, when we do them, in a sense, with our eyes turned toward him in love, then our resistance to those sacrifices will be replaced with joy.

That joy—that Easter joy—will then overflow from us to our children and draw them ever closer to the Lord, which is the best thing we could ever want for them. †

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