Unseen babies aborted because a mother has plans that don’t include her child. Infanticide of sobbing little ones because they don’t measure up in some way. Children separated from families within the border of a land foreign to them. Gender idolatry, sexuality used to please me in my moment, destruction of Marriage and family.
Hopelessness. Addiction. Homicide. Suicide. Darkness.
“I’m better than you.”
“At least I’m not as bad as her.”
“You should hear what he says!”
“I want to be her.”
“My situation is worse than yours.”
“I would never…”
How often have you heard these comments? How often have you uttered them? How often have similar comments been disguised under thinly veiled pretenses of compassion?
Americans use these phrases every day. Sometimes we are savvy enough to not state our self-importance so bluntly, but never doubt the underlying, subconscious message:
“I am excused because I am better than you.”
And self-importance, more than false demands for choice, coexistence, and tolerance, are ruining America.
I see it even in myself.
Self-Importance, Misguided Judgment, Hypocrisy, & Fasting this Lent – What’s Wrong with America is What is Wrong with Me
Lent began Ash Wednesday, and as the Lenten season approached, I carefully considered what gift I would offer the Lord and mankind over the next 40 days. The idea that certain demons are cast out only through prayer and fasting has been playing on my heart, and it was relentless as I considered making my small sacrifices in preparation for the Glory of Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter.
I’m not good at fasting. I’ve tried it only a very few times always with half-hearted effort. When I fast, I get headaches. I get tired. I get distracted. In the end, I get grumpy!
And so, I’d decided that fasting is not what God is calling me to.
Sure, it had value for some, but God certainly didn’t mean for me to go through that misery. More importantly, He wouldn’t want my children to deal with the grumpy Mama I became on the days I cut my overly abundant daily caloric intake.
And so, I never really tried. I was never willing to put the work in to do it right. I simply, perhaps even understandably, rewrote God’s call so it fit my life.
I should have rewritten my life to fit God’s call.
It’s what I ask of others often enough.
Yet I didn’t see it in myself.
What I said to myself about fasting is what hundreds of thousands of Americans say to themselves about divorce, abortion, sexuality, addiction, hate, and all that threaten the ruin of America.
“Surely God didn’t mean for me to be stuck in this Marriage, with this child, this sexuality, this gender He gifted me with.”
“God wouldn’t want those around me to suffer because I am miserable. My kids want me to be happy. They would be better off if we divorced and fighting stopped.”
“My unseen child would be better off denied breath and opportunity than with a Mama who couldn’t afford her or with the disability he’s been diagnosed with or being given to a loving, hopeful, adoptive family.”
“God made my body with cravings I am powerless over, so I ignore the call to chastity meant, not as a punishment for a minority, but as a gift that provides security and balance for children, spouses, and community. God wants me to be happy and love, so others must embrace my bodily cravings and sacrifice His teachings on Sodom and Gomorrah, lust and chastity, Marriage and family.”
Just like self-important and misguided leftist Americans, I formed my own judgment. I trusted my feelings about fasting and the challenge God offered me rather than relying on what Saints, Christians, and non-Christians have done for centuries.
I was ignorant of practices of Native Americans who used fasting as a vital part of marriage rituals and rites of passage into puberty and other times. I forgot documentation from well-cited physicians dating back to Hippocrates who recommended fasting to cure a variety of ills of the body, mind, and spirit.
I ignored the fact that ancient practices like fasting have commonalities that hold humanity together across time, space, religion, and culture. I focused on our differences rather than on our brotherhood. I separated myself from history and was doomed to failure only because of my lack of Wisdom, not because God was not calling me to success.
I never bothered to look up what Saints said of fasting or how and why it
was is important.
I relied solely on my own inadequate experience and my feelings of what was right and wrong .
I arrogantly assumed I knew what was best for me and those I love most. I, who have little to no objectivity in my own life, made myself the best interpreter of God’s plans for me.
I interpreted His Will without studying His Word on the subject.
I didn’t realize the headaches I experienced were my body’s way of flushing toxins from my system. I didn’t realize I was not powerless over my poor attitude or bodily cravings. I didn’t know I was made to see Joy through hardship and smile. I didn’t know the smiles I received in return would help carry me through that hardship. I didn’t know I had the power of finding good rather than succumbing to my own weaknesses.
I erroneously gave myself authority to override what wise and godly men and women have known for thousands of years. I trusted my own meager understanding and did what felt good, what felt right, in the moment. I didn’t realize I couldn’t tell the difference between what felt right and what was right because my conscience had not been well-formed in the subject. I didn’t realize my conscience was easily led by my feelings when it should have been the other way around.
Lent approached with the call to fast weighing on me.
I knew if I decided to do this, I’d go all in. I’d already given up coffee, ice cream, cookie dough (yes! cookie dough – a HUGE sacrifice for me!), and most chocolate over a year ago as part of prayer and sacrifice for a special intention. If God was calling me to fast, I knew I had to go big or go home as they say.
I even wondered if I’d have to go big or…go to Hell???
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that by not fasting you or I or anyone is doomed to eternal damnation.
I am not saying if Americans don’t fast, our country and all we know and love is going to Hell in a hand basket or in any other way, shape, or form.
Only God knows that.
What I am saying is that I arrogantly assumed I knew better than the Saints and the Lord God Himself by thinking fasting was for others but not for me. I had not honored the hardship and temptation fasting presents. I skimmed the Gospel reading where Jesus Christ in preparation for His trial and execution, fasted for 40 days in the desert and was first tempted by Satan with food. I missed that it is only when denying ourselves simple bodily pleasures that we are gifted with greater temptations. I had assumed my fast to be much more difficult than everyone else’s. I had judged them to be so much holier and better than me, so I judged their sacrifice and temptation to be less than mine. I quit when the going got tough rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to see me through.
I had shown a lack of trust.
I had fallen to weakness in myself where I had assumed I was strong and wise.
Is that enough to send me to Hell?
I don’t know.
I certainly hope not because I do this far too often!
Here, I pause to thank God for His Forgiveness and Mercy. I also try to look forward to His Justice purifying and humbling me as well!
Hell is real.
Jesus told us it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven. (Mark 10:25).
We tend to believe because we are good (or weak), God awards us Heaven whether we honor and glorify Him or not. We believe His Mercy will override our desire to be autonomous in this life and place us close to Him in the next. Many tend to think that, unless you are a serial killer, Heaven is an instant guarantee.
We don’t take time to inhale Scripture or contemplate writings of Saints holier and wiser than us or receive the Sacraments faithfully. Instead, we rely on our own understanding. We make excuses. We compare ourselves to those who do less than we do. We feel instead of think. We run from challenge instead of running to triumph. We are blinded to the benefit of suffering and fail detoxing from our own self-importance. We trust our own judgement. We let our conscience guide us but seldom take time to discern what judgement should be based on or to develop a conscience outside of ourselves and what feels right right now. We toss aside ancient value placed on absolute truth. We seldom look past our moment of trial. We choose the easier path and deflect blame by saying we do it because God wants us to be happy and others would suffer if we stumble up our narrow, rocky, often isolated, path.
Just as I did with fasting.
Just as mothers and fathers do with abortion.
Just as doctors do when strangling and snapping necks and spinal cords of born-alive infants.
Just as nurses do when they leave the tiniest human beings whimpering in cold steel buckets until their little hearts stop beating.
Just as voters do when they allow a mother’s rights to trump a silenced father’s or a smothered child’s.
Just as do those who use their bodies and the bodies of others, even those they claim to love, for personal gratification without marital commitment.
We believe we are different from others. We make ourselves more important in some ways and less important in others. We see in ourselves beings needing mercy and forgiveness and then hold grudges against those who have hurt us or our children.
But in the long run, there are more similarities than differences.
And some of those similarities are pretty scary.
Ghandi is once reported as saying he’d become a Christian if he ever met one. In the ideal world, Christians would be judged by the words and actions of Christ, not the other way around. We do not live in an ideal world.
We are judged by what we say and do. What we say and do is influenced by what we think and learn. What we think and learn is determined by our humility and effort.
And in our imperfect world, Christ is judged by the words and actions of Christians.
Abortion, bodily mutilation, using people, there are many downfalls far worse than not fasting, but God tells us, “And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48).
I am Blessed. God has given me much.
And with much comes responsibility.
I am responsible, not just to live a good life, but to live a life beyond my own understanding, not to avoid suffering, but to suffer well and rid myself of toxins and misconceptions, not to act in ways that feel good, but to learn what is good so that I can act in goodness when goodness seems contrary to my feelings.
It is not enough for me to not have killed my surprise pregnancy or to wring my hands in confusion or despair when others tout misguided notions that result in death of children’s bodies, corruption of hearts and minds, and eternal damnation of souls. We are called to act courageously, in Wisdom, and in accordance with the Gospel.
The same sins that lure others to commit child murder, perform sexually deviant acts, and execute other atrocities are performed by me when I fall to one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Lust, Greed, Gluttony, Envy, Anger, Pride, or Sloth. Where I point fingers at others, I tend to excuse myself because my sins are not as bad as theirs, but in the eyes of the perfect God my sins are rooted in the same lust, greed, gluttony, envy, anger, pride, and sloth.
An oddity of life is that to live our authentic selves, we cannot trust ourselves especially in areas we have not studied the Wisdom of those greater than us or in areas that we have become lax. To be courageous, happy, peaceful, loving Christians we must turn to authority, not away from it. We must submit ourselves to the Wisdom of those who went before us. We must humbly accept that there are those in the past who knew more than we do and who offer valuable insight that, shockingly, still applies today and is in fact eternal.
We must see ourselves, not as deserving of Heaven, but as deserving of the call to grow closer to Jesus Christ through humility and suffering, gratitude and sacrifice, silence and service, seeking and studying in this loud, avoidance-driven, feel-good, selfie-based world. By opening ourselves up to open mindedness within Christ’s call to grow closer, we discover the power of (Generosity), , He gives us.
Can fasting save America?
It’s not that simple. My hope dims because so many are unwilling to go without. We try taking the easy way out by voting in politicians like Democrat Socialist Alexandria Ocsavia Cortez who want personal autonomy without communal accountability and free stuff for the chosen when free stuff is a misnomer, a lure, and unsustainable longterm.
Free stuff seems nice, but like chocolate chip cookie dough, if you take too much or come to expect it or think you deserve it because of who or what you are or think it won’t cause damage longterm, you have not studied the subject or its history. You fail to connect today with history. You rely on your understanding and desires without realizing that, free stuff is a temporary high, which builds up the tolerance of lust for more. You ignore those who have done without and achieved the American Dream and don’t realize fasting provides motivation to go higher and seek freedom and hard work and value indulgence, stuff, and services paid for by others cannot replace. Besides, you ignore the fact that someone worked for to make that dough!
It is not in fasting or in any one practice that we make a difference. It is not in people that my hope lies.
America is at a cross roads. We’ve been sitting in the intersection for a long time, barely avoiding oncoming traffic. As weather phenomenas and war, mass shootings, human trafficking, and other atrocities rise worldwide, America cannot continue feasting in the intersection. At some point, it must be willing to sacrifice our indulgences too.
America must begin a fast of stuff.
My Hope is in what those holier than I have known for centuries. Ironically, when hope threatens to dim, I find renewed Hope in doing without. Hope comes from fasting on what I think I need so I rely on essentials and power that comes from doing what is hard and doesn’t feel good in the moment to arrive at what is good eternally. Hope for America and for each of us comes from studying, exercising, practicing, and applying powers known for thousands of years and given to ALL by our Creator.
Hope doesn’t come from handouts, in the form of universal anything other than universal Love and Truth. It is in using Love and Truth to reach out to all God’s children that we can hope to heal America by beginning to turn hearts.
Beginning most of all with our own.
Special thanks to Blessed Alexandrina da Costa who miraculously lived more than 13 years (from March 27, 1942 to her death in 1955!) on nothing but a once a day serving of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist.
Dear Blessed Alexandrina, I apologize for my arrogance in assuming fasting was easy for you. I humbly ask you to join me in asking Jesus to help me rely less on what I desire and more on the Bread of Life He alone gives. Help me live my faith less judgmentally, mournfully, pitiably, and selfishly and more courageously, sacrificially, joyfully, and lovingly. Walk with me through the many forms of fasting this life calls us me to.