Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Periodically I quit eating sugar. I did it again on Ash Wednesday of this year. I'm pretty happy with the result. Fifteen pounds disappeared from the bathroom scale; some people remark about the weight loss.
But I've done this before and I don't think it will last. Even at sixty-eight, to go the rest of my life without "kid food" (sugar) seems like a long time.
Inevitably, I will sample the dessert tray. It might start with the "no sugar desert" or the "artificially sweetened." It will progress to "just one bite, just a taste!" Not long after the full blown dessert, the sweeter, richer, thicker, chocolatier, the better! And those lost fifteen pounds will be found.
I meet twice a week with Veterans who have issues of substance abuse: alcoholism and drug abuse. Periodically I show them an image of walking man. It's a series of silhouettes from crawling infant to walking adult to adult with walker.
Walking, I remind them, is the hardest thing we ever learn. It requires great strength and flexibility of every joint from the toes through the neck. The graph, depicting the span of one's lifetime, shows how the head descends from its place above the shoulders to a level plane with them, and sometimes lower. The head is very heavy; its high place above the shoulders challenges the aging body. A lifetime can be a very long time to maintain one's strength and upright resolution; whether you're maintaining your strength or abstaining from sugar.
It is never easy to be a human being. Old folks tell me it gets harder. The head that has fallen to level with the shoulders might never regain its high position.
Jesus warns us, "...whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me." If you don't think you should have to carry a cross; if you think your years, achievements, sacrifices and sufferings have earned you an exemption, "you are not worthy of me."
He's very serious about that.
I find the Prayer of Saint Francis helpful. A daily recitation reminds me that my life is not about me; there is no reason I should have it easier than others, not even those who are younger. If I don't exactly rise to the occasion following that prayer, I can at least sit and listen to another's story and skip the dessert today. That's more satisfying than the richest chocolate.