5…4…3…2..1..Ding! The bell rang and every able-bodied boy darted out of class and to the parking lot. There was a limited amount of time allotted for lunch, and that time seemingly shrunk if you were a senior. One of the longest standing traditions at my high school was off-campus lunch for seniors. If you wanted to go to one of your favorite dine and dash restaurants, you could, provided you were back in time for class (which, admittedly, rarely ever happened). The funniest thing was that we were so excited about this opportunity that once lent rolled around, we kind of forgot about it, and were more concentrated on scarfing down our food. It wasn’t just me either, though I tend to be a bit more forgetful than most.
Just imagine a Wendy’s packed with 30 type-A personality high school boys, and it’s easier to envision. Countless times I would be half way through my burger when I would remember it was Friday and just blurt out “ah crap, it’s Friday!” The sound that would follow was similar to that of your home team losing the game at the last second.
It’s funny to me now because it’s almost like more businesses remember that Lent is coming up, and about Friday fasting, than most Catholics. You’ll see signs for Fish sandwich sales and Meatless food options at basically every establishment. And while a majority of people tend to treat lent as a “Catholic New Year” by making healthy life choices, it’s about more than food.
I know we are already into lent, but this year, I’d like to take a different approach to it. What if we took this time to fall deeper in love with our Church and our God by remembering rather than removing?
Lent is an ancient tradition within our Church, and for good purpose. Many of you already know and realize this, but it’s worth repeating: It’s only when we slow down and sacrifice, that we can truly see the worth of this life. The Church knows that we tend to be a bit, how do you say…hyperactive. Especially in our American culture. We are always “too busy” or “don’t have enough time”. I use this excuse often, and often have this excuse used on me. It seems to be especially predominant amongst those working for the Church. Two major things happen: We get so focused on what we’re doing that we forget why we’re even doing it in the first place. Or we get so focused on what we’re doing that we lose sight of those things that mean the most to us.
We live in a time of turbulence and chaos. I tend to believe that this will only change when Jesus comes again, or I die. However, so much of my time is invested in passing blame rather than doing work to fix all of this. Often times, I should just be looking interiorly instead of pointing to the exterior. Lent provides an introspective view. Lent provides a time to examine myself and see what the source of all this really is. Lent provides a time for me to remember why I’m even alive in the first place.
My sacrifices remind me of who I really am and who I’m called to be, not just physically but spiritually. If I am not entering into this wholly and authentically, then I am most certainly not becoming holy authentically.
2 Corinthians 5:7 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come”
It’s one of my favorite scripture verses, yet the hardest to live by. I sometimes tend to discredit the old, precisely because it’s old: it just seems outdated. But as I get older, my appreciation for all things old grows. The wisdom, the growth that has happened leads to something new.
However, this lent I have been moved at how good I am at hiding my old life. I keep it hidden in my heart, and I’ve become so good at it, that there are aspects of my old life that I’ve even hidden from myself. It’s in remembering my old life that I allow the new to completely kill it off. It’s found in intentional sacrificing. Instead of allowing it to fester and grow like an unseen disease, I launch an all out assault on it, and allow the Lord to give me a glimpse of what life can be. Instead of losing hope in what He wants to create in me, these wounds become the door to greatness. Why would I ignore the thing that hurts the most in my life if I know that it will eventually lead to something new? Wounds and suffering have been given meaning. Instead of running from them, I’m given power to embrace them.
I have recently become enamored with this tree in my back yard. Now, I’m not hugging it and talking to it, but I’m just fascinated by it. It’s only 60 years old and it’s huge, yet it started out so small. I can’t help but look at that and think “God, what will you create with me by the time I’m 60?” Thinking about all that it has withstood and been through is kind of weird, but really inspiring. From weather changes to people change, all kinds of animals; all sorts of outside influence and circumstance. Yet, it continues to grow and progress. Despite it’s exterior circumstances, no matter how great or dire, it has become a beauty to behold, a sight to be seen.
Lent is more about slowing down, becoming small and allowing the Lord to reorder us interiorly than doing things to make ourselves big or fix our exterior. The tradition of becoming small has been around a lot longer, and has withstood much more than those who would make a tradition of becoming big. Just remember who you are and who God is when that bell rings, and in doing so, allow yourself to be transformed into something truly breathtaking.