So, I was thinking about Lent 2017 and all sorts of choices, proposed actions and guilts are swirling around in my head. You know: how Lent should make me better, amp up my spiritual life, change my prayer life and how many of these things have not happened in years past! It makes me just a “little” squirmy in my chair as I “command” my writing bunker from the total comfort of my office, heater set on a perfect temperature, mega desk chair set at all of the right angles and a hot coffee!
I guess when I think about Lent I could slip into the excuse of looking at all of the amazing things that Jesus did and experienced and simply give myself a “hall pass” because I am not nearly that holy, spiritual or determined. And I am OLD (70)! Doesn’t a poor ole senior citizen get a break? No, Moses, Methuselah, Job, Abraham, Sarah, Simeon, the Prophetess Anna, all still working hard for the love of God in their old age. Sigh!
Maybe there is a different way to consider this. It is true that the mindfulness which the Church calls us to during Lent is not a bad thing. It is not meant to remind of how much we don’t or can’t accomplish. Lent is a time to remind ourselves to consider all the big things as well as the little things about our Church as well as ourselves. One of the things I love about Lent is the fish frys. Right, the fish frys. In any American city that you might visit during Lent you will find a local parish who has all the Mom’s, Grams’ and senior parishioners running a fish fry that has traditionally been held in that parish for xx years! It’s a “secret” recipe. Faithful gather, eat together and in a mostly unspoken way affirm that “this is our faith” this is what we believe, we are in this together. Somehow, though, eating fish doesn’t seem quite enough of a nod to the gravity of the celebration we are heading for. I love the “give up” too! On every Catholic’s lips during Lent there is their declaration of sacrifice. “What did you give up?” is a question that no Catholic is confused by even if it’s been the same answer for the last umpteen years. Just a couple examples of the small stuff but what about the big stuff. Mmmmmmm, can’t see the forest for the trees? You are a tree, you know! You are one of 1.2 billion who is thinking about, considering, practicing this aspect of what it is like to worship as and be Catholic! 1.2 Billion (Pew Research Center)! We are, quite literally a force for the world.
I suppose you could argue about which “bunch” of Catholics is better or more effective. The disciples did. You know, the “who is greater” argument. What would be the point? Kind of like aiming the gun at your own foot. Rather, where’s the strength, the miracle in the 1.2? All of us will practice Lent more or less perfectly. Some will become more spiritual, some not. Some won’t bother and still call themselves Catholic. There is one thread, though that links us all, worldwide. It can be found if we look at the way Jesus lived His life. Through all His worship, teaching, politics, betrayals, temptations, leadership and authority one thing appears over and over again. Whether you are thinking about the small or the big aspect of being Catholic, it is a shared reality. He was certain of God the Father’s presence! It’s just one thing, but is shapes and colors everything. As Catholics this may manifest in a million ways, how we pray, how we worship, how we work, how we play, how we practice Lent and what our attitude is when we attend Mass or celebrate liturgy. For Lent then, we already have “got it”. We all have this unspeakable sense that God is present! It’s why our minds and hearts turn toward Lent and we anticipate Easter. “Through the grace of baptism, we become sons and daughters of God, and are thus invited to the same filial certainty that Jesus has.” (Fr. Richard Veras, Magnificat, February 2017, p. 354). So begin Lent with what you know, rely on that. Then as a member of the 1.2 just see where that intuition takes you.
Copyright© 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham