Summary: Is pain merely weakness leaving our body?

First Sunday of Lent 2019

I have to admit that whenever I hear the words, “He ate nothing during forty days [of combat with Satan and prayer] and at the end of them He was hungry,” I am tempted to doubt. I don’t doubt that Jesus fasted and prayed, like Moses, for over a month. But I have trouble skipping just one meal. If I do that, I feel cheated and think I’m going to die. When I have to go in for a blood test, I always schedule it as soon as the doctor’s office opens, because I have to fast for eight to twelve hours before doing it. For me, fasting is a terrible sacrifice. And whenever I talk or write about it, I am embarrassed to admit the fact.

But Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days, and during that time He began the battle with Satan that lasted His whole life, and culminated with His suffering, death and Resurrection. So what is the lesson we need to learn from it, we who are so very human, so very self-interested, so very afraid of pain and loss?

Let me share some reflections on a T-shirt I sometimes see worn by our student athletes, usually the boys. It reads “pain is weakness leaving the body.” Well, pain is actually your body’s way of telling you that you have done something that might have been a bad decision. Pain is acceptable, “provided that the pain inflicted is small enough that you can handle it and grow from it, emotionally or physically.” The saints tell us that when we fast, pray intensely, or give alms until we actually feel some hurt, what we feel is our Christ-like spirit expanding, growing.

That’s the thought I’d want to leave with you this Lent, do for others, deny yourself, give until you feel some “good” pain–the pain of Christ pushing against selfishness, pride, avarice and lust. That way, by Easter, you will understand and believe that there is more to you than yourself, that Jesus is, little by little, taking control and making you into the best possible version of yourself.

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