Learning the price of love during Lent

The teachings of Christ are in stark contrast with secular society. He told people to stop worrying about tomorrow, to store up treasure in heaven, not on earth, and to love the poor. He hobnobbed with lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors, who were scorned by the well-to-do.

He also said we can’t escape suffering: “Take up your cross daily and come, follow me.” Follow him where exactly? Follow him through a life dedicated entirely to other people. Follow him through jostling crowds, who first praised him and then cursed him. Follow him to the lonely hill called Golgotha, where he was brutally killed.

Now that it’s Lent, Christians re-dedicate themselves to his path, which has been called “dying to self,” and rightly so. The self is hungry for more, and never satiated. The self wants to be coddled, praised and respected.

For me, the battle against the hungry ego is constant. It wants praise, acknowledgement, pampering and lots of stuff. It was taught that when you’re lonely, scared, anxious or sorrowful, buy something to take the edge off.

“The price of love is yourself” is written on a sticky note on my fridge, a daily reminder of the connection between sacrifices and love — and a promising motto for Lent.

Our society encourages us to put ourselves first. Take a spa day, book a pricey vacation, engage in shopping therapy. Advertisers say we deserve gigantic houses and designer clothing. Those who go against the grain are seen as weird.

Lent calls us to tweak a few things. Can I say no to some of my pleasures? Can I make a sacrifice to God out of love? Put other people first?

Good parents are well-versed in sacrificing. From the moment the baby comes home from the hospital, a full night’s sleep becomes a thing of the past. The 3 a.m. feedings and changings, the rushing to the crib when an odd squeak is emitted are just the beginning. Later come the hours of helping with homework, attending school events and teaching Junior to ride a bike.

The danger of Lent is it becoming just another diet or a competition sport. The point isn’t to lose a few pounds, although that may happen. The point certainly isn’t to look like a martyr to our friends. Lent must be rooted in sacrificial love, or it falters.

“The price of love is yourself” is most clearly seen in the crucifixion, because Jesus wasn’t an unwilling victim of Pontius Pilate and the bloodthirsty crowds. He knew his mission would lead to crucifixion, and predicted his death to his friends.

But why did he willingly die such a gruesome death? He said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends.” He gave his life for us, and showed us that sometimes the price of love can be death.

Think about the mother who will give her life to protect the child. Think about the soldiers, police officers and firefighters who sacrifice their lives to save others.

Lent is about dying to the self and its endless demands. It’s about following Christ to the cross, and accepting whatever suffering life brings us. Lent is about learning the price of love, and being willing to pay it.

Lorraine’s email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.