Earlier this week, I was out of town giving a parish retreat somewhere in the eastern part of our diocese. During this time, I had the opportunity to visit several homebound parishioners during the day when I had some free time. These visits, like in Springfield, are among the most fulfilling parts of pastoral ministry for me. Because, beyond administering the sacraments to people who truly desire them, those visits are beautiful opportunities to listen to stories and histories that one may never hear elsewhere. Also, such visits provide amazing prospects for encounters with folks who have lived multiple decades of their lives growing with and in the Church they love and serve.
One of my visits was to a lady in her late nineties. For privacy reasons, I will call her Bema here. Bema was sharp and strong mentally and spiritually. Her physical strength is failing and limits her abilities to stand and walk. So she is homebound. But her limited mobility has not stopped Bema from keeping up with political and Church news, with her prayer life and daily Mass attendance online.
When I asked Bema what her secret was for being so sharp even with her vision and hearing, she laughed and said she loves her whiskey. She strongly believes that her glass of whisky every morning for way more than half a century is responsible for her good health. She went ahead to convince me that it works and that I should try it. We both laughed as I asked her what she was doing for Lent.
The question of what Bema is doing for Lent brought an answer that provoked a deeper understanding of the word “sacrifice” in me. First, she told me she gives up her daily glass of whisky every Lent. According to Bema, giving up her daily glass of whisky is the most significant sacrifice for her. That nothing else can cause her enough anguish than giving up something she treasures the most, which she can still do without.
Also, Bema said something else that I have been talking about in my homilies since the beginning of Lent. She explained that she donates the cost of a bottle of her choicest whisky to her favorite charity at the end of Lent every year. Again, I asked why she thinks it is important to do such. Bema told me that if she only gives up her daily glass of whiskey every Lent without making that donation, she would just be saving her whiskey. THAT IS TRUE!
Two lessons from my visit with Bema
- If we must journey with Christ in the wilderness this Lent by fasting from something, it must be something we truly cherish. We must fast from something that doing without it is capable of causing us some real distress.
- We must allow our fasting to benefit someone else. For example, suppose I must fast from meat this lent. In that case, I have to check the average cost of my monthly meat consumption and donate it to a person or organization that needs it.
May our Lenten sacrifices bring us closer to Jesus Christ. Amen.