Going the Extra Mile (Especially in Lent)

This morning I saw a commercial for a car inviting people to “go the extra mile.” Now that is a good slogan for a Christian. After all, Jesus taught us disciples, “If anyone wants to sue you and take you coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Matthew 5:40–41) (Roman soldiers could demand civilians to carry their load for them for a mile.)

Jesus himself went the extra mile. Surely the all-wise God could have thought up a less demanding way to reinstate the human race. Did he have to become one of his creatures? Did he have to be tortured and executed? But such is the passionate love of God for us.

During his public life, Jesus often pushed himself to do more than what was required.

• At the very start—the wedding at Cana—he provided an abundance of excellent wine.

• When he fed the hungry thousands, there were twelve baskets of leftovers.

• To help the apostles fish, he saw that the catch was so great that their boats were almost sinking.

• After Jesus heard that his cousin John the Baptist had been killed, he went away by himself. But crowds followed him, and so he sacrificed his time alone and cured the sick.

Our Creator God has also overdone it. The universe is so vast that we don’t know where it ends, and our night skies are brilliant with countless stars. Then too one only has to visit a zoo to marvel at the multitude and variety of animals. A world of roses would have been fine, but, no, God puts forth thousands of different kinds of flowers.

Now what about us who are made in God’s image? Can we stretch ourselves to go beyond what is necessary? Sister Vernice, who relished big words, taught me about works of supererogation. They are precisely this: going the extra mile. Here is what the three Lenten practices might look like:

Prayer: We add an extra ten minutes to our usual prayer time.

Fasting: Besides giving up chocolate, we refrain from all snacks.

Almsgiving: In addition to donating clothing that doesn’t give us joy, we give to the needy some articles that we really like.

We go the second mile when we encounter someone in a store, on the street, or in a hall and take the time to chat a bit. We go the second mile when besides sending a get-well card, we call or visit the sick person. We go the second mile when we are asked to watch someone’s house while they are away and we also clean a few things for them.

The saints were generous with their time, resources, and love. St. Therese of Lisieux was so kind to a crotchety Sister that that Sister asked, “Why so you love me so much?” When a plague struck in Milan, St. Charles Borromeo took down the curtains in his house and donated them to make clothing. As an invalid, St. Julie Billiart could have stayed comfortably at home, but instead she had herself carried to church so she could instruct people about the faith. Let’s not forget St. John. It would have been understandable if he had fled with the other apostles, but instead he walked to Calvary.

To do more than what’s necessary—over and above what’s fair—takes courage and virtue…and great love. Those who go the extra mile are on the way to heaven. They can be certain that Jesus walks with them.

• When have you benefited from someone going the extra mile for you?

Here is a sweet song about walking with Jesus:

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