Day Three: Sacrifice

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Today we abstain from meat. It is such a small sacrifice. A sacrifice can be offered with reluctance and regret, or with joy and enthusiasm. The difference is that when we embrace this very small sacrifice with joy and enthusiasm, in anticipation of the grace that comes from it, then the grace that we receive is exponentially greater than if we made this small sacrifice halfheartedly. The small sacrifice of abstaining from meat has the potential of being exceptionally fruitful in our lives when freely offered with joy and from the depths of our souls.

Offer today’s sacrifice of abstinence from meat in union with Catholics throughout the world. This sacrifice, and every other sacrifice we make throughout our lives, must be offered in the same way that Jesus offered Himself when He went into the desert for forty days. Mark’s short version of the story says that “the Spirit drove him out into the desert…” (Mark 1:12). Matthew’s and Luke’s versions say Jesus was “led” by the Holy Spirit into the desert. In other words, Jesus’ entrance into this sacrificial time of prayer and fasting was not something He was forced to do against His will. He didn’t do it with reluctance and regret. Rather, He was driven from within by the Holy Spirit to go in haste to enter this sacrificial time. He was led, not pushed, and He followed the will of the Father, in union with the Holy Spirit, with eagerness and resolve.

On the surface, any sacrificial act can appear negative at first. “I have to do this.” And though any sacrifice we are invited to offer might initially appear to be a burden, the deeper spiritual reality teaches us otherwise. If we live by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, our perspective on almost everything in life will change, including how we view the sacrifices we are invited to make.

As you offer the small sacrifice of abstaining from meat today, allow the Holy Spirit to “lead” you and even “drive” you from within to make this not only an obligation, but also a deeply spiritual offering that you choose and will for yourself in union with Jesus. Offer it to God as one small thing you can do in imitation of our Lord’s human life. Offer it with blind trust and confidence in our Lord, knowing that imitating Him is always the most glorious course of action. Do not see it as a negative that you have to do. See it as one small, yet glorious, opportunity to express your love for God, tame your disordered appetites, and grow in virtue. 

My sacrificial Lord, You made the sacrifice of Your forty days in the desert with the utmost resolve and determination. It was Your great joy and Your privilege to offer this human sacrifice to Your Father in Heaven by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Please give me the grace this day, and every day, to offer every sacrifice of my life in union with the willingness and joy of Your most Sacred Heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

See also: Reflection Three – 40 Days in the Desert

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