“Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” (Ecc 1:2)
- We want to include fiber and vitamins in our diet, but without having to eat fruits and vegetables.
- We want to be in shape, but without making any physical effort.
- We want to drink water, but without having to actually drink just water. We prefer to drink water with more flavors instead.
- We want to read books, but without having to actually read them. We prefer listening to them instead.
- We want to lose weight, but without having to force ourselves to eat less.
- We want to stop our sugar intake, but without having to stop tasting the sweetness in our foods, so we start adding other kind of sweeteners instead.
- We want to have the perfect marriages, but without making the effort to work through hard times with our spouse.
- We want to have “successful” children, but without having them interfering too much with our work and social life.
Doesn’t make much sense, does it? These antitheses are all around us in our world. We have gotten so used to adapting everything in our lives to fit our desires that whenever a pattern in our lifestyle has to be radically changed, we want to make that change with minimal impact in our routine, or even worse—with the least of sacrifices from our part.
That may be why in today’s society the concept of fasting or penance has become so foreign and absolutely unnecessary. We are all aware that there are many people who suffer from eating disorders or addictions, so for them it is not a matter of laziness that prevents them from adopting healthier choices. Therefore, as Christians who are always in solidarity with one another, we unite ourselves with our brothers and sisters who suffer from such conditions through fasting and by “offering up” small things every day.We can make other kind of sacrifices when we feel lonely, for instance. How many people long for their loved ones while apart? How many mourn for those who will never come back? How many will never taste the goodness that comes from the sacrament of marriage, because of physical or mental disabilities? When we feel lonely, we should think of all of those who suffer to a much greater degree than we do and that is when we encounter the agonizing Christ in the garden and we then enter into the infinite love of the Trinity once more. As Dorothy Day said, “[w]e have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.”
The secret is to find the joy in sacrifice and not to be “miserable” for offering things up as St. Josemaría Escrivá said, because when we make sacrifices we are united in Christ and with his whole Body, that is the Church:
“We are not walking with Our Lord unless we are spontaneously depriving ourselves of many things that our whims, vanity, pleasure or self-interest clamour for. Not a single day should pass that has not been seasoned with the salt and grace of mortification; and, please get rid of the idea that you would then be miserable. What a sad little happiness you will have if you don’t learn to overcome yourself, if you let your passions and fancies dominate and crush you, instead of courageously taking up your cross!” (Friends of God, 129)