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This Lent, Choose the Road Less Traveled By

The_Road_Not_TakenSpiritual writers speak of becoming holy as “willing the one thing.” For me, this means being focused on God’s will and way and not my own. God’s will is always for us to choose the most loving and compassionate way which is often the most difficult one. Acts of self-denial are the pavers that line the path of discipleship. Lent is a season that offers us a choice of paths to follow. We can continue living as usual or we can choose to use the time to live the gospel more fully. This reminds me of one of my favorite poems, The Road
Not Taken
by Robert Frost:

I shall be telling with this sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

When the Scriptures speak of denying ourselves, they usually mean we are to deny that part of ourselves that leads to sin, to be anything other than who we truly are. Other times we deny ourselves not as an avoidance of sin but as a sacrifice out of love. Self-denial is not part of our culture’s image of the “good life.” But neither is Jesus’ call to deny oneself to be understood as self-abasement or giving up things for just for the sake of doing it. Just giving up things does not make us Christian; it will only make us bitter and empty.
Pope Francis in his Lent 2014 message reminds us: “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”
Before making that next purchase, reacting to someone who has hurt you, looking away from the suffering eyes of a hungry child, or avoiding the grief of a neighbor or friend, ask yourself this fundamental question: Is this who God created me to be? Is this the most loving way? It is not always easy to choose the path of discipleship. We don’t know whether the poet chose the right path but we do know that for us the path of discipleship—the road of self-denial for the sake of love of God and love of neighbor—can make all the difference.
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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One Response to “This Lent, Choose the Road Less Traveled By”

  1. John Bartelloni says:

    Many thanks for this Sister Terry. THE ROAD NOT TAKEN is also one of my favorite poems. Elsewhere the narrator acknowledges that both roads are worm equally. He saves the road not taken for another day while doubting he’ll return.

    I have long felt that THE ROAD NOT TAKEN is about selflessness and selfishness and how we choose or not to conform.

    The narrator has made a choice on which path he’ll follow. The title acknowledges the path left untrod. As we walk on our own journeys through life, our choices beckon. Which path will be left for another day and which path will be embraced?

    Today, after mass a woman begging approached me and asked for money to feed her children. Normally, I don’t give under such circumstances and did not today. Instead I referred her to the pastor. My parish has a Saint Vincent de Paul pantry. It is stocked regularly.

    There is so much suffering in our affluent society My response to the woman in need troubles me. I felt her pain yet turned her down because something just was not right. I hope she made contact with the pastor perhaps I’ll spend this Lent learning where and how to help the least of these.

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