By Heidi Comes
I have often wondered what it would be like to live in a region that saw year-round consistent temperatures that stayed above 60 degrees—waking to the sounds of chirping birds and the stream of the sun through a bedroom window. I also ask myself if the people there are filled with a more significant and deeper appreciation for life.
Bishop Fulton Sheen would likely say no.
In his book titled “Finding True Happiness,” Bishop Sheen reflects on a number of ways in which we can find true happiness in life and common pitfalls we encounter on that path. He emphasizes this when discussing how the only way to experience true joy in something is to have experienced the absence of that same thing. In a chapter about repose, he comments on leisure and how, like work, “it is an intense activity, but of a different kind.”
In order to fully enjoy and appreciate the relaxing times in our life, we also have to know the difficulty of hard work. The same could be said about living in South Dakota. Experiencing your nostrils freezing shut in January leads to a much deeper enjoyment and appreciation of the heat found in the July sun.
We are called to be Easter people, people full of the joy of Resurrection Sunday—a joy that radiates within our lives causing us to shine brightly from the Son that fills our hearts. The message of Easter is the message of hope and salvation. It’s what we as Catholic Christians are called to share with the world through our words and actions all year long.
But how do we do this? Wouldn’t it be easier to live joyfully the message of Easter Sunday if we never experienced struggle, pain, heartache, loss or even sub-zero wind chills?
The wisdom of Bishop Fulton Sheen rings true even in this call to be Easter people. This past Lent, I saw this quote: “We do not know the glory of Easter Sunday without the sorrow of Good Friday.” Isn’t that the truth? And isn’t that exactly what Bishop Sheen was getting at?
The lenten practices and sacrifices we make during the 40 days prior to Easter serve to make ready our hearts for the joy of Easter Sunday. The somber, the serene, the dryness and the want make the victory of the cross so very sweet.
What if we incorporated this into our lives all year long?
Whatever we did during Lent to draw closer to God can be incorporated into our daily life throughout the year. It may not be done with the same intensity as the 40 days of Lent, but going without a favorite food once a week, giving of our time through an act of service monthly and offering our day for a specific intention are all small lenten practices that can lead us to a deeper appreciation each and every day of the year.
When the sugar high from the chocolate eggs begins to wane, and the sound of the “Alleluia” sung in Mass no longer sends a shiver down our spines, maybe it’s time to go without. Perhaps it’s time to incorporate into our routine lives some of the absence that makes the heart grow fonder in order to allow the Son to shine brighter.