Peanut Butter Sandwiches

As we were heading back from noon Mass recently, the older half of the Hilgeforts were lamenting that they had to have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.  You see, I am an exceptionally cruel mother, and a common punishment for disrespect, attitude or poor behavior in the morning is a plain peanut butter sandwich for lunch and a piece of fruit.  No jelly, honey, lunch meat or the like.  Of course, this punishment is usually always doled out after a warning.  


Woe is them, woe is them.  Not one of them could even recall what their offense was.  They were all quite sure they had done nothing and were suffering greatly.  They were all certain they would never give a punishment so cruel when they were parents.  I told them they would have plenty to discuss with their therapists when they were older.  I didn’t feel sorry for them in the least.  Tate and I do not put an undue burden on any of them.  They were all suffering a just (if not light) punishment for their poor behavior.  


What does bother me though is their unwillingness to see and admit what they have done wrong.  The first step to correcting any poor behavior is to recognize it.  This lack of humility to see our faults plagues not only my family, but the world.   More, their unwillingness to deny themselves the pleasures of the flesh, even something so small as jelly, is not uncommon in our world.  With a seemingly superabundance of all things delicious, it is a foreign concept in our culture to fast.


Lent begins on Valentine’s Day.  This is only one of two days in our liturgical year where we are asked by the Church to fast.  The other is Good Friday.  This fast is defined as two small meals for breakfast and lunch, and then dinner.  No meat and no snacking between meals.   


Hmm, should we dare to guess how many will adhere to the fast?


I don’t intend to sound judgemental, but the question has to be raised why are we as a culture so unwilling to do something so small?  Two days out of the year to fast?  That is almost nothing.  Like my kids complaining about their peanut butter sandwich, we are spoiled children who refuse to make the smallest sacrifice for our Lord.  


Perhaps this Lent, we can challenge ourselves and our family to truly fast.  Fasting is more than giving up chocolate.  Desserts are really just a start.  We should look to those things in our life that we are overly attached to, television, social media, our phones, etc.  What is it that we feel we cannot live without?  Fasting is a means to subdue our physical desires and strengthen the spirit and the will.   In so doing, we detach ourselves more fully from the pleasures of the flesh.  We are able to better resist temptations.  We are more willing to suffer for Christ and neighbor.


We should share with our family what we intend to fast from.  They can help keep us accountable and on track.  We are on the journey WITH our family, it is beautiful to live that faith together.  As with all things, growth comes with challenge.  Lent is intended to be a time of the year to suffer more WITH the Lord.  How must it have felt for Him to know he was approaching His death?  Even more, the death He suffered upon the cross?  Have we fooled ourselves into believing we haven’t sinned that often and His suffering was more for others?  


Do we understand that by turning away from sin and suffering with Christ we provide consolation to our Lord’s suffering?  Christ saw all sin before he was on this earth and after.  Those that remained unrepentant caused him greater suffering than those who sought his mercy.   Would we not want to bring comfort to someone we love?


Fasting is not just for the saints.  Christ does not put an undue burden on us.  In reality, this is such a small thing we can do for love of Christ.  True love is never one sided.  When love is given to us, we should naturally want to return that love.  Fasting during Lent is but a small way to do that.   We say with our actions, Jesus I desire to suffer, if but a little, with you.   Jesus, I desire to be a consolation to you.   Jesus, I desire to be closer to you.


Let us strive to suffer with Christ to the end.  Like Mary, Mary Magdalene, St. John, and a couple other women - let us have the strength to walk to Calvary and stand at the foot of the cross until His last breath.  Of all the people Christ loved during his earthly life, healed, and ministered to - in the end - only 5 remained.  This tells us this is not going to be easy.


Skip the box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day.  Give something to Him who loved you first.  Fast, pray, and ask God to give you the fortitude to travel to Calvary with His Beloved Son to the foot of the cross.   JMJ


I leave you with the first verse of one of my favorite hymns, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent.


“Let all mortal flesh keep silence,

and with fear and trembling stand;

ponder nothing earthly minded,

for with blessing in His hand

Christ our God to earth descendeth,

our full homage to demand.”