Catholics are supremely Pro Life.
Catholics must, however, also be supremely pro death.
Death, that is, to everything sinful.
We are, after all, a faithful of the Cross, a people of the Paschal Mystery, and a people who reap God’s beneficial Love even in suffering, and dark times.
Well, Lent is that dark time where, in faith and hope, we find the charity of the Lord in the mystery of the Cross. And Ash Wednesday marks us with the beginning of this faith journey.
Death is a very personal thing. We live the best in community, and communion, but we die alone. This is true in our personal choices during the holy season of Lent. And our society, full of sin and you-know-what, is full of deadly poisons which inflict our Christian spirit with doubt, and lukewarm response. Therefore, Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, is the ‘golden opportunity’ graced by God to die to ourselves in all that clings to us in the ‘culture of death’ all around us.
It is not enough that we profess a Pro Life philosophy. Our death to self must start with our ‘religion’ and our gods. We must die to the political correctness in our society which makes us hide our Catholicity just a little bit. We must die to the overriding relativism which makes us seemingly acquiescent to moral abnormalities such as gay ‘marriage’ and contraception. We must die to a popular culture which offers us decadence, promiscuity, and the glory of eugenics with a heavy dose of Catholic mockery. We must turn it down, turn it off, and turn our back. We must die to products we love which are produced by companies that support ungodly things. We must die to entertainers, politicians, and athletes who either lead an unchristian lifestyle or promote the same. We must somehow be different, countercultural, in dying to all that is deadly in our society: pornography, drugs, promiscuity, and the cafeteria Catholic lifestyle.
Ash Wednesday is more than the beginning of a liturgical season. More than a family tradition where we are marked for ‘Catholic’ acceptance. It must be a time of sacrifice in the true Spirit of Catholicism. It is a time for mortification. It is a time to embrace repentance, confession, and penance. It is a time for Psalm 51, and a deeper reflection on the sufferings of our Lord. It is a time to become well acquainted with the suffering saints, particularly the martyrs. It is a time to think about the martyrs in our current era.
For if we don’t, we will be unchanged by the grace of God’s holy accusation against us. We will be like all the other people, lost in the fun of the meaningless, pointless, unrewarding, banality of the everyday life of the social herd. Yes, we will be more comfortable with them. Yes, the Lenten challenge is a self imposed distress. But this death, beginning on Ash Wednesday, is the beautiful death of the only true freedom from the world.
The freedom of the Cross. And until it is felt in its fullness, one can never understand its glory. For it is not only the fact that it leads to Life, but the greater fact that it unites to the Life giver in no greater way.
And that’s why it is the beautiful death.