Our Hardships are Small, Christ’s Suffering was Greater.
As lent approaches, most of us are probably dreading those difficult forty days. It is a time when we feel like we must give up something we like doing, like playing video games, using social media, or eating sweets. We dislike the time leading up to Easter, we don’t want to wait so long for the celebrations that come afterwards, we don’t look forward to fasting, and we most certainly don’t like all the preparations that come before the big feast. But why do we look down upon such an important time? And yet, what is it about Lent that is so important and necessary for us?
The season of Lent is designed so that we can focus and meditate on the suffering that Jesus went through. It is a time of solemn reflection leading up to His death on Good Friday, but also a hopeful time as we wait for His resurrection three days later on Easter Sunday. During Lent, we prepare for Jesus’ death by bringing ourselves closer to Him with prayer, fasting, repentance, and denying of self.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, when we receive the ashes of burnt palms from last Palm Sunday on our foreheads. “Repent and believe in the Gospel” are the words we hear as a cross of ashes is traced on our foreheads. Indeed, we must repent our sins and we must believe in Christ’s life in order to live out our faith.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
God created us, we have every reason to turn our eyes to Him and focus our lives on Him, there is nothing more important than the very Creator that created us. We are reminded of our humanity and our natural sinfulness, and thus our need to repent.
After his baptism, Jesus spent forty days in the desert being tempted by the devil, and he rejected each of his temptations. We should strive to do the same. If we are to be like Christ, we must thrust each of our temptations away from us and follow Him; always aiming for better. Our very faith is founded on the life of Jesus, who refused the devil’s worst temptations and led a life of utmost piety. During Lent, we imitate Jesus’ time in the desert and fast like Our Lord did so we may be more like Him.
“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings by becoming like Him in His death” (Philippians 3:10).
St. Paul comes to know Jesus by acting in His likeness and suffering as He did. Every ounce of St. Paul’s being desired to please and serve God. He knew that by sharing in Christ’s sufferings and by becoming like Him, he was getting closer and closer to the God he yearned for. St. Paul saw the profound and lasting effects of finding Christ in his life. The hardships he faced on his path to following Christ were small in comparison to the sufferings in Christ’s own life and even smaller in comparison to the love Christ had for us as He died for us.
Sometimes I find myself complaining about the smallest of adversities. I have a cold and my throat itches, my classes are boring and my head aches, my friends are not giving me attention and I don’t feel loved, I am not getting good marks and I am not smart enough, my family is going through troubles and I can’t fix them, I made a rude remark to someone and now I regret it, a family member just died and I feel hopeless, I don’t get enough exercise and I am exhausted all the time, others are happy but I am not, I skipped mass and I haven’t gone to confession in months, my friends have beautiful clothes and mine are so old, I forgot to do my chores and my parents are mad at me, others are being praised but I am left unnoticed, my life is not fun while others seem to have constant enjoyment… But then I remind myself of what Jesus went through on the cross and everything is made well.
“Lord Jesus. Meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being Loved, Deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus. […] That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it” (Litany of Humility).
If our God endured nails being pierced through His flesh, splinters of wood on His back as He hung from that cross, a spear going through His side, and a crown of thorns on his head, the least we can do is fast for forty days. If we compare our sufferings to His, we often find ourselves seeing how small our problems really are. Can we truly compare a grain of sand to the whole desert? Of course not, one is much greater than the other. But if we take our little grain of sand and place it with everyone else’s grain of sand, we see a desert. This desert is what Christ took upon Himself for us. He took all our little sins and problems, all our tiny grains of sand, and took that whole desert in His arms so that we wouldn’t have to bear it any longer. Then, He let the people crucify Him, and that desert of sins was made nothing. Just like that, our sins were forgiven: past, present, and future. Just like that, we were restored to a relationship with God, with no sins to separate us from Him any longer. Just like that, our thirst for water in the desert was quenched and our thirst for eternal life with The Father quenched too.
So, give your grain of sand to Christ this Lenten season, and let Him replace the dryness with His river of abounding love.