If God loves all his children and his love for us is unconditional, why were Noah and his family the only ones saved at the time of the flood and why were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed?
God has given each of us a precious gift called “free will.” Every day we freely make hundreds of choices – what we will wear or have for dinner, where we will go, who we will phone today or similar choices. With any choice we must accept the consequences of our actions. When your child ignores the home rules, you “ground them.” You do this because you love them and want them to learn to make good choices in life. If one of your children turns their back on you and walks out, even if you could physically prevent it, you still could not force your child to love you. Love is a free choice whether it be for another person or for God.
When someone chooses to drink or do drugs, to steal or to harm someone, to rape to deliberately reject any of God’s laws, there are physical, emotional and psychological consequences. It is a road to self-destruction. If like the Prodigal son in Scripture, your child returns and asks forgiveness, both you and God would embrace them with open arms and celebrate. They are still your child. But the child who walked out may not return and continue to make bad choices of every kind. If the choices escalate to murder, the justice system may sentence the offender to death or to life imprisonment without chance of parole. Your heart is broken. You hate what they’ve done but you still love them and you have to accept the fact that they receive the consequence of their free choice as did the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and those at the time of the flood.
Lent is a great season when you can do the spiritual exercises that will strengthen your will to make good choices and show your love for God.
One strength-building workout is self- denial. As children we use to give up candy until Easter. Reflecting on this I concluded that even for those who didn’t believe in God, it was an excellent practice for character building and a training for the challenges in life including the give and take of marriage. In life you can’t always have everything that you want or “your will be done” at any cost. As adults our self-denial takes different forms and there are many. One such form is fasting which we find in scripture. It trains our will, helps our body and strengthens and supports our lip service.
But is Lent only “giving up?" Far from it. There are many other positive disciplines like choosing healthy foods for our bodies and consuming healthy spiritual food for our souls.
Do some spiritual reading from the Bible and other inspirational books. Take time daily to talk to God. Do loving acts for Him by helping some of his less fortunate children. Visit or call the lonely. There are many other practices that are external and social reflecting your circumstances and those of your community. Choose what is “do-able” for you and persevere in its practice. The important thing is to become “spiritually fit” through regular spiritual exercise. Take your cue from scripture which in Matthews’ gospel talks about almsgiving, prayer and fasting. (Mt 6:2-18) There is no age limit on spiritual exercise!
Sister Andrea Dumont is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph Roman Catholic religious order. She spent 14 years in Guatemala and since returning to Canada has lived in Grand Rapids, Easterville and Thompson. The main focus of her work in adult education, which includes training lay presiders for times when there is no priest available, organizing and instructing in the various ministries, sacramental preparation and RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).