Thursday 20th June 2019

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Lent: Finding Joy In Gratitude And In Suffering

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By REY FLORES

Once again, my favorite season of Lent is coming around, bringing us a new hope in the midst of sacrifice. As I grow older and go through life’s trials and tribulations, I have learned to embrace suffering as something good, something edifying.
Without suffering, how would we learn true gratitude and how else would we know what true happiness is?
A better way to put it is this way: Had Jesus not endured everything from His agony in the garden, His scourging, the via crucis, and ultimately His crucifixion, there would have been no eternal salvation, or the opportunity of it, for any of us.
What is true happiness, you ask? From what I continue to learn as I strive to be closer to our Lord, true happiness in this world is unattainable. True happiness is eternal life in Heaven with God. While true happiness in this world is impossible, we can find happiness here by pursuing what is good.
One of the greatest good things I try to pursue at every possible moment is to express my gratitude for all of the blessings God has bestowed upon me. I can assure you that I am facing some of the greatest challenges I have ever faced in my life, but nevertheless, I can walk, I can breathe, I can hear, I can see — although I am still trying to raise money for my cataract surgery — but I can still see nevertheless, enough to write these thoughts out and share them with you.
Expressing gratitude seems to be something we’re told we need to do only on Thanksgiving Day, but that is a secular falsehood. Sure, nonbelievers need every reminder to express some kind of appreciation for their lives and its blessings, but we Christians must do this always, especially when we are in those moments alone when the only being who can truly appreciate our gratitude is God Himself.
While the happiness we seek here on Earth is oftentimes portrayed by the world as having material goods, the more the better, that isn’t what God made us for. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice house, a reliable car, a good job, enough to eat, decent clothes, especially if we are providing for our loved ones; there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
As a matter of fact, all of these things can be rewards of hard work and discipline and they are blessings every good person deserves. Not that there are undeserving people, but some of us have made some poor choices when and where we effectively forfeited our own blessings — only for now, I hope.
My point regarding material goods is that we mustn’t obsess over earthly wealth and materialism. I know, it’s a no-brainer, but I believe that these are the obligatory lessons and reminders we all need in order to stay on the straight and narrow.
While inanimate material objects can sometimes be trivial and useless, there are many of these things that are also useful, helpful, and even beautiful and entertaining blessings. For example, my car may be eleven years old and not exactly in showroom shape, but she runs. I am grateful that she just helped move me and all of my earthly belongings without a hitch, as tiny as she is, so I can get on with the next chapter of my life. Deo gratias.
You see how I did that? I expressed gratitude for a material thing because it helped me pursue a greater good.
While my little car is not the latest sports car, I don’t need a sports car, anyway. I need a reliable car to help me take the next steps in my life to fulfill God’s purpose. That purpose is to do what is good for others and to get back into a position where I can gainfully provide for my loved ones.
Lent is such an incredible time for self-discovery, a time for us to reassess and ask ourselves what purpose God has for us. Are we fulfilling our obligations as Christians by allotting time for prayer? Prayer is part of our purpose. Give God adequate time for Him to speak to us. Not just during Lent, but we should always dutifully and lovingly pray our rosaries, chaplets, novenas, attend Mass, receive the sacraments — these are all beautiful and meaningful things, and, most important, part of God’s purpose for us.
It is said that faith without works is dead, and this is an eternal truth. Sure, prayer is part of our purpose, but let us never allow our prayers and overall faith to become boring, tedious, and obligatory chores. Putting our prayers to work can be done in many ways. At this moment as I write this, I am putting my prayers to work by using a talent God has blessed me with to — I hope — share some inspiration through my writing.
Before sitting down to write something, I try to remind myself to say “Come Holy Spirit…” so that I am guided by His divine light. Today, this is what I am called to write about.
If I don’t ask the Holy Spirit for this guidance, I tend to follow my own will and that can get pretty dark and negative. Anyone who has read my writing can probably recall a column or two where I was not charitable, merciful, and maybe even unjustly judgmental. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we must call out anything that is blasphemous, contrary, and offensive to all that is good, but given that Lent is coming, I asked God to help me write something this week that can help bring hope and light instead of anger or sadness.
Yes, today’s headlines are overwhelming and painful to read and absorb. I didn’t just want to react again to another horrible story, but I asked God to help me write about a positive topic rather than just to respond to one. I pray that I served the Lord well with this column and that some of you may have found a renewed hope by reading it. Let us use this Lent to serve others as our Lord has served us.
Ash Wednesday is upon us. Lent is here. Let us fast, pray, and thank God not just for our obvious blessings, but for His blessings in our suffering. When we suffer, we are right there like Simon of Cyrene, side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, suffering for a greater good.

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(Rey Flores writes opinion and book and movie reviews for The Wanderer. Contact Rey at reyfloresusa@gmail.com.)

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