A vision of Lent

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Ash Wednesday is nearly here! I am quite sure, of course, that you will be delighted to hear that; somebody has to break the news. Ah, but let me break it over you gently: if you are willing to get started a few days early on the annual question, What’cha doing for Lent? The Scriptures for this forthcoming Sunday are a marvelous piece of spiritual shock. When, for instance, you read Jesus words in the Gospel you will be tempted to say: “Ah, this is going to be 40 days of pure ease: “Life is more than food, the body is more valuable than clothes.” God takes care of the birds and the flowers, so why not God’s favorite creatures, the folks on this lovely planet? “If God takes care of the grass of the fields, will God not take equal care of you — you who have so little faith?”

It sounds comforting, does it not? But then after a few moments of deep reflection, it may suddenly occur to the Catholic-Christian that this carefree mood does not appear to fit the traditional way we have thought of Holy Lent. Has it not been our yearly Ash Wednesday resolve to really get down to work? No more easy-going penances that do not last beyond Lent’s third week. This year it’s going to be different. We’re going to tough it out! So it has been for many Catholic-Christians for many a Lent: Do the hard stuff and by Easter, you will have suffered your way through another Lent.

But tell me, has this hard-nosed, tuff-it-out attitude ever worked out the way you thought it would? It has never worked for me.

Could it just be that Jesus is on to something when he suggests that all the worrying we do about money, clothes, security and so forth are not worth the worry.

The question always seems to come down to this: do we really think that we are in control of our eternal salvation? If we work hard during our entire life, pursuing temporal gain, does that not make a difference to God? Actually, no! Jesus insists, “Unbelievers are always running after such things.” The believer, on the other hand “seeks God’s kingship, God’s way of holiness, and all these other things will be given besides.”

So, what could the next 40 days or so look like for the believer? Perhaps we should try to find peace with God, find time for quiet prayer every day, be kind to others, “learn from the way the wild flowers grow and envision what your life could be like if you did the very best you could and then let God take care of the rest.

Around Easter time, let me know how it all works out.

Scriptures for March 2

Isaiah 49: 14-15

1 Corinthians 4: 1-5

Matthew 6: 24-34

The writer formerly served in the Anchorage Archdiocese and now lives at Notre Dame in Indiana.

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