Ash Wednesday. Yipee! Fasting, sacrificing, a crust of bread and a glass of water and the first day of giving stuff up... for 39 more days. Who's excited? (insert sound of crickets)
OK, let's be honest. No one really looks forward to a day of fasting and abstinence, especially from things like Taco Bell's new "Beefy Crunch Box." (I'm not making that up, it's real, and only $5 dollars, but not today friends, not today).
Fasting hurts. Fasting isn't fun, especially for we Americans who want everything fast. But if we're honest with ourselves, we know that a day like today (and a season like Lent) is absolutely essential for one reason: It shows us our addictions. It reveals the tiny strings or the thick cords that are binding us to things less than ourselves. And if we're bound to something less than ourselves, that means we are slaves to that thing.... and slavery isn't fun.
So let's do some introspection; let's look inside today and see what it is we feel we can't live without - a kind of food, drink, Facebook, TV show - and try living without it for a while. What happens? Do we get cranky, bitter, the shakes? These may be signs of withdrawal. That's telling us something invaluable. These things may be the chains restricting us from embracing and realizing our "natural greatness," in the words of Blessed John Paul II.
I suppose the defining question then is this: Do we want to be great? Do we want to be transformed? Do we want to be whole? Do we want to be holy?