Those among us who have observed many Lents in our lives would readily understand that this is a season for giving up. Today is a day of fasting. For 18 years old to 59 years old catholics, there is an obligation to fast. For 14 years old and above, there is a duty for abstinence which means not eating meat. What will you give up for Lent? – is a favorite question. Food? Desserts? Fats? What will you give up for Lent? But Lent is not just about giving up something. What is more important than giving up? What is more important than sacrificing? I will answer it by way of a parable.
A young student of prayer went to a guru of prayer and said, “Master, I think I am growing in holiness.” And he said, “I can eat only once a day.” I can sleep only for a few hours and I do not complain. And I beat myself for the forgiveness of my sins. My body is bruised because of sins but my body is also bruised because of my penance. I do not complain and sometimes, sometimes even if people criticize me, I do not respond. And when I do something good for other people, they do not even say thank you. The master said to the student, “Look outside the window. Can you see that horse?
That horse is given grass by the kutsero (coachman) once a day. That horse is not given a drink and in its exhaustion, it is made to sleep while standing up. And after pulling the carriage, it is the coachman who is paid, not the horse. When the horse does not do its job of pulling the carriage well, it gets whipped. The horse gets whipped, it is not fed, it sleeps while standing up and it does not even receive a thank you. What do you call it then? Saint or horse?” “Horse.”
This means, the horse that is not fed can be likened to someone who is fasting. The horse does not even receive a thank you like the catholic. The horse that sleeps while standing up; the catholic who sleeps on a hard surface. But where lies the difference? How do we become holy?
We do not become holy by giving up. We do not become holy by doing something for the Lord. We do not become holy by doing these things? What makes us holy? Gratitude.
Gratitude. The horse in incapable of saying thank you to the coachman but man is capable of giving thanks to his fellowmen and to his creation.
Gratitude is what makes people saints and in gratitude is what makes people devils. This Ash Wednesday, we shall receive ash on our foreheads and we shall be told – you are dust and to dust you shall return. If we look at ash, this should encourage us to strive even more to be good. Let us not forget the ash of our origin and the ash of our conclusion, in between them are abundant blessings!
After we were ashes, God gave us flesh. Are you thankful to God for your body? Do you thank God for your birth? Do you thank God for your food? Do you thank God for the free air? Do you thank God for your friends. Do you thank God for the Catholic faith? Do you thank God for your education? Do you thank God for your marriage, for your family? Do you thank God for your community? Do you thank God that you receive Him in Holy Communion?
These blessings are not given to ashes. These blessings are not given to cremated remains. These blessings are given to us in flesh and blood. What I mean to say, my dear brothers and sisters, this season of Lent, let us increase our quota of thank you’s. In fasting, there lies a problem when we do not know how to give thanks. The truth is, if you don’t know an attitude of gratitude, you will complain that you’re hungry. You will complain that you want food. You will complain that you want dessert. You will even make excuse that I am diabetic or I have blood pressure or I have ulcer. You are going to make excuses if you do not have a grateful attitude. This season of Lent, give up something – okay. But do not forget to say thank you. Because it is gratitude that makes us saints, it is not what we give up. It is saying thank you for everything that makes us holy. It is not what we do for God. Let it be clear. God does not need what we want to do for Him. Because Christianity is not about telling people what to do for God. Christianity is about telling what has God done for humanity. And if we know how much what God has done for humanity, what can say but “Thank you, Lord!”.
This morning, when we receive the ashes on our heads, and we are reminded that we came from dust and to dust we shall go, we shall return. Please remember – between the ashes of our origin and the ashes of our conclusion, we have many blessings in between. Do not forget those blessings because all those blessings came from the Lord. To God be the glory. Thanks be to God.
Thank you for listening. Thank you for watching. Please look for Father Soc on youtube. And I hope you can subscribe to the channel. There I can meet you with more reflections, with more homilies and then we can interact. And you can also tell me the questions in your heart, the questions in your mind which I hope, I can also answer in the same channel. It is not technology that brings us together, it is the Lord. It is not technology that has brought us together, it is our love for the Lord and our love for the Church. May the Spirit continue to work in all of us. God bless you.