In 2004 The New York Times Magazine printed an article written by Amy Richards titled “When One is Enough.” The author relates her experience when she and her boyfriend reacted to the news of her pregnancy with triplets. Because of the grave inconvenience three babies presented for her, her career, and her future, she decided to have a procedure called “selected reduction.” The procedure entailed an injection of potassium chloride that would target two of her three babies resulting in two abortions and leaving her with just one child.
Ms. Richards goes on to explain in the article that she did what she had to do in order to salvage her career and the future of her one child. She adds that her only fear was future pregnancies. If she chose to get pregnant in the future, could multiple children be conceived again? That was her only concern.
I confess to you that I was disturbed.
As I thought about the article, I decided to go back and rummage through it. I counted the words the author used throughout the text and was not surprised to find the following results:
43 times she uses the word “and;”
32 times she uses the word “in;”
61 times she uses the word “the;”
And 103 times she uses the words “I” or “me.”
The scourge that is abortion is, for the most part, a by-product or result of an even greater evil that ravages our society. It is the same evil that, since the dawn of mankind, has brought about not only the demise of individuals, but of their families and entire nations. From the first moment sin was introduced to the world to the present moment when millions of men, women, and especially children are starving and homeless, it is the great sin of selfishness that has lurked in the hearts of men and has clouded our inherent goodness and stained our divine image.
From the moment that a man or a woman makes a decision with the purpose of benefiting him or herself, without considering others, or without considering his or her commitments and responsibilities, that man or woman is ignoring his or her sacred and godly vocation to love God above all things and love his or her neighbor as themselves.
When Charlie Sheen tells the world that he’s hooked on a drug and that drug is called “Charlie Sheen” and that anyone who tries that drug will die, or when Tiger Woods shatters the trust and confidence of millions of young fans who look up to him as a role model and betrays his commitment to his wife and child, or when Nicolas Maduro or Raul Castro or anyone in a position of power violate the basic human rights of their constituents in order to maintain their dictatorships, there is a clear concentration on the self with no consideration for the other.
But do we really have to go to television or newspapers in order to see this. Do these more mundane phrases sound familiar:
I can’t go to mass; I’m having too much fun on the boat.
I can’t visit the sick; I’m watching the Marlins play or the Heat win or the Dolphins lose.
I can’t feed the hungry; I’m too busy working on my career.
I can’t help you right now; I’m too tired, I’m too busy, I don’t want to be inconvenienced.
In moments like these the “I” generation strikes again; the I’s have it and if we hear or see ourselves either through word or action saying or doing any of those things, then we suffer from the same disease that affects Charlie Sheen, Tiger Woods and yes, even Nicolas Maduro and Raul Castro. As a matter of fact, we are not much different than Amy Richards who said “I cannot have triplets, I’m not married, I work free-lance…”
Just imagine if the great leaders found in Scripture would have adopted the selfish “I” attitude:
I can’t place my faith in you and be the father of the nations; I’m too old and tired.
I can’t go to Egypt and set your people free; I am tending the flock of my father-in-law.
I can’t be a prophet to the nations; I am too young and do not know how to speak in public.
I can’t be the mother of your son; I’m engaged to be married.
I can’t follow you; I’m a married man and have to fish all day to support my family.
I can’t be the savior of the world; I’m not willing to die on a cross.
If those who have gone before us would have placed the “I” before the “you” or the “me” before the “them,” we would have had no faith, no freedom, no understanding of the truth, no Messiah, no Church, and no eternal life. You see, the good and awesome things that have happened in our world have happened because men and women have been able to struggle against their selfishness and have concentrated on doing the good for others. They have put their wants and desires aside and have given themselves to God. They have said yes to Him and allowed themselves to be totally inconvenienced.
And this is what Lent is all about. It is about inconveniencing yourself for the sake of others and especially for the sake of the ultimate “other”: Jesus Christ. The Church enters these forty days of fasting and sacrifice as an expression of a commitment that we make to spend the rest of our lives inconveniencing ourselves for the sake of Jesus and the world that he saved and loves.
The ashes we received on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday were a reminder that the values of the Church, the values of the Gospel, are taught for the sole purpose of shaking the “I” out of us and enhancing the “they.” We are called to the service of God’s people, we are called to be disciples of Christ, we are called to battle the selfishness that plagues our world and the ashes and the season of Lent will remind us of that call.
Lent is a time to be on heightened alert, a time of awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ in the lives of others and an opportunity for me to demonstrate to others the presence of Jesus Christ in me. And if we fail to do that, then we have failed at fulfilling our purpose, our vocation. Don’t get me wrong, you may be a success in business, science, in music, or in sports, but you would be a failure in life if Jesus was not at the center. Because ultimately, all those things… business, science, music, and sports, will return to ashes.
As followers and lovers of Jesus Christ, it is my prayer that one day each of us will be able to sit down and write an article about our life for The New York Times, or The Miami Herald, or The National Enquirer and that the reader of your life can sit down and count all the words used in the article and find:
43 times the use of the word “and;”
32 times the use of the word “in;”
61 times the use of the word “the;”
103 times the use of the words “we” or “them;”
And not once the use of the word “I.”