Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Breaking our self-centeredness

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

While congress is busy legislating about our national dish, perhaps it would also be good to settle once and for all the issue of the national past time. If I had my way it would be “selfie.”  The social networks have provided the venue for self-broadcasting and now, it seems to be an unstoppable trend. Call it “self expression” but we cannot deny that the proliferation of “selfies” is really a manifestation of our self-centeredness. If I may use the words of Pope emeritus Benedict, we have become a “self-enclosed society.”
At the beginning of Lent, the Lord cautions us against self-centeredness. He warns us against false benevolence, that is, performing acts of charity for people to see. He also warns us against false piety that makes a show out of worship. He likewise warns us against self-assuring mortification. He thrice repeats his displeasure against religious acts done for other people to see. Those who perform such acts do not genuinely seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Rather, they use charity, piety, and mortification as occasions to broadcast themselves. And how many times do we see ourselves as belonging to this “selfie” generation. We broadcast to people how beautiful, or intelligent, or busy, or important we are. As we receive ashes today, I appeal to you…please do not upload your selfies with ashes on your foreheads.

The season of Lent is much known to us as a season of Penance. It is a time for fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These spiritual disciplines are meant to help us lose ourselves so that we may give due attention to God and to our neighbors. True fasting means voluntary self-denial so that we could breakthrough the barriers of
our self-centeredness and open ourselves to the Other. True fasting leads to authentic prayer. When I truly deny myself, my prayer becomes more focused towards God. Prayer becomes less about myself and more about God. True fasting leads to charity. When I truly deny myself, I become sensitive to the needs of my neighbors. The objective of our fasting is not to achieve the healthy weight and perfect figure. The objective of our fasting is to be able to share with those who have nothing. Our fast-to-feed program for this Lent is for the children survivors of the super typhoon Yolanda. Pope Francis presents to us the example of the Lord Jesus who made himself poor in order to enrich us with his poverty. Our self-denial, our voluntary poverty must enrich others. We lose so that others may gain. “…we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

Our sacrifices must be low-key and hidden. We do not collectively engage in mortification, prayer, and charity to earn a place in the Guiness book of records. We do not want the recognition of the world. All we want to do is to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. We need not gain the admiration of the world because we are not of the world. We do what is right only for the pleasure of the Father who sees everything in secret. “The world admires only spectacular sacrifice, because it does not realize the value of sacrifice that is hidden and silent.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, #185.) Spectacular sacrifice gains the admiration of the world. But the sacrifice that is hidden and silent merits the approval of God.

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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