I started off the Lenten Season, as I usually do, by going to Ash Wednesday church service; by receiving the cross of ashes on my forehead that symbolize my mortality, as I begin to reflect on the immortality of Jesus and the sacrifices he made for me.
It's traditional to give up sweets or to fast in some physical way to show our solidarity with Jesus and to feel a little bit of the physical discomfort that Jesus felt during his last days on earth.
Nothing I could give up would come close to what Christ went through though, so it has always seemed a futile practice in my view.
A few days before Ash Wednesday, I read an article about Pope Francis that struck a chord with me. In his address on the subject of fasting for Lent, he called on people to fast not from food, but to fast from hatred.
So, as I sat and pondered this prospect, I thought - I can do that. I'm pretty in tune with that aspect of the life of Jesus. Jesus loved everyone. He approached everyone with the same compassion as he did the next person - not differentiating between nationalities, schools of thought, or religions. Christ was good at that. I can do this; I thought. Easy.
The more I thought about it though the more difficult a challenge it became. If I am to do this, I have to truly look at people through the eyes of Jesus. I have to love the haters. Tolerate the intolerant. Find common ground with people who seem so uncommon to my way of thinking.
Can I really do this? Every single day for the next 40 days, can I go about my day without simply rolling my eyes at those with whom I philosophically, theologically, or [whatever] disagree with, but rather stop and listen? Can I open my eyes to things I cannot see for myself, but can only see if I filter it through the "what would Jesus do" filter?
This exercise won't be easy by any stretch, That is the point right? To stretch myself farther than I normally would. To feel the discomfort. To show not only myself, but those around me that I don't only give lip service to my faith, but that I am also willing to make some changes in myself, and in my heart. If I want things to change in the world, I have to start with myself.
I pray that I can humble myself enough to challenge my views on certain issues, and in drawing myself closer to everyone I come in contact with, that I will also draw myself closer to the one I am trying to honor, my Jesus, whom I love with all my heart. May his light shine through.
Psalm 51:10 New International Version (NIV)
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.