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Lent: A Season for Sacrifice...

Our guest blogger today is Kyle Kramer, the executive director of the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville, Kentucky..

Years ago, as Lent approached, I asked a trusted spiritual counselor what he was going to give up. He gave me a sly grin and said, “I’m giving up giving things up for Lent.”

He was no spiritual sloth. Looking back, I imagine he was probably trying to correct my overzealous understanding of Lent as a time to flex my spiritual muscles and hone my ascetic self-denial to a razor-sharp edge. For (too) many years I had a no pain, no gain, “if it hurts, it’s holy” understanding of spirituality. For me, faith was pretty much the same thing as moral willpower. So when Lent came around, I was eager for the chance to gird up my loins, deprive myself, and grit my teeth for 40 days.

With this kind of mindset, I suppose it was no coincidence that I was also a raging environmentalist. After all, if I liked the deprivations of Lent so much, why not deny myself creature comforts year-round, in the name of saving the Earth? Middle age, raising children, and some spiritual maturing have helped me understand that such a gung-ho approach to Lent and environmentalism was as much ego as it was youthful, high-minded idealism. But I don’t think realizing that means I should simply “give up giving things up.”

We follow a savior who, out of love, gave his very life for others. And we live on a planet that cannot sustain seven billion people if everyone consumes like the average American; many of us will have to live more simply so others can simply live.

But how do we give things up in a way that’s spiritually fruitful, without being dour and resentful, and not inflating our own ego with a martyr complex? I can think of three ways.

First, become self-aware. Take a hard look at your own motivations—not judging them, but just paying careful attention to why you do what you do. Second, practice gratitude. The more grateful you are for the blessings in your life, the easier it is to make sacrifices.

Finally, cultivate compassion. Acting out of empathy and concern for others is the most life-giving motivation of all. This kind of love is what moved Jesus to heal the sick and to carry his cross to Golgotha. And it’s what Lenten sacrifice is really all about.

This blog is from Kyle Kramer’s “At Home on Earth” column in St. Anthony Messenger. To learn more or two subscribe, click here.

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Photo: ingimages

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"And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.

I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will."

-Papa Francis quote

He does not know you, yet he prays for you.
He will most likely never meet you, yet he loves you.

This is your chance to show your love, for as the Bible teaches, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."