3 joyful kids playing in the snow

So, Lent is here. Which means that many of us have prepped 50+ impossible commitments because we want to be holy. After all, Lent is about sacrifice. And sacrifice makes us more like Jesus. Which in turn makes us holy and helps us save souls. But is making so many sacrifices the most effective way to do this?

St. Therese of Lisieux, who loved suffering more than any person I know, would argue differently. In her Story of a Soul, she writes about the simplest way of becoming holy. And while holiness does involve sacrifice, it might not be as difficult as we think. That’s because this path to holiness involves love—a love that sanctifies us in and through the body.

St. Therese in her Story of a Soul realized one day that she wanted to become a “Victim of Love” for Jesus. Now, at first, that sounds quite daunting. I’m like: “That does not sound fun! Who wants to be a victim? I don’t.” But some people in Therese’s time were making themselves victims of God’s justice, forcing themselves to suffer in countless unnecessary ways. But Therese knew she couldn’t do that. She was too small for that. But she wanted to offer something up to God that wasn’t so overwhelming to her.

That’s when she realized that she wanted her heart to be consumed with God’s love. As the Israelites would offer burnt offerings to God as sacrifices, Therese wanted her heart to be consumed with the fire of God’s love as a sacrifice. Therese realized this was the key to holiness. It wasn’t about doing 50 Lenten resolutions. It was about doing small things with great love for God. It was God’s love (which He pours out into her heart) that would make her sacrifices meritorious for saving others.

She realized, in a new way, what Saint Paul meant when he said, “Offer your bodies up as a living sacrifice of praise” (Rm. 12:1). St. Therese realized that all of our bodily actions need to be filled with the fire of God’s love that leads to praise. This means that everything we do needs to be infused with God’s love.

For instance, when I do my work, am I actively grateful for every aspect of it? In this way, God’s love dwells in me. Or when someone says something hurtful, do I receive that statement and offer that up in love to Jesus? When I take a bit of delicious food, am I receiving the goodness of the food in gratitude to God? Am I receiving every gift that God is pleased to give me?

In this way, the fire of God’s love can burn within me. This is why St Therese said, “If you pick up a pin with love, you can save a soul.” It is not about how much we sacrifice, but rather about how much love we pour out to God through our bodies in everything that we say and do. So, when we offer up our bodies in love to God, the fire that burns in our body and soul will overflow from us into the body and soul of the one that we pray for. We becoming holier, and that other person becomes holier!

We often try to do so much during Lent. But maybe what is needed is not more sacrifices and greater sacrifices, but rather greater love. It is love that saved the world 2,000 years ago. And it is love that will continue to save the world in each of our bodies and souls from now until the end of time. May we say yes to that love in all that we do.

Gabriel Milano has his Master’s degree in Theology in Marriage and Family at the John Paul II Institute and is a content creator and speaker for TOBET. He also writes fantasy novels for children and young adults, under the pen name G. M. Dantes.

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