Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

It’s Ash Wednesday! This should be a little boy’s favorite time of the year—Christmas aside—because it is the one day everyone goes about looking as though they just finished having a nice roll in the dirt (if you have a sloppy pastor who just slathers the stuff on, you know what I mean). Toddlers should be thrilled, because now everyone looks like they do. Who needs a bath?

(^This is not my pastor!)

However, for me, it hearkens the dreaded I Can’t Have My Favorite Thing for Forty Days period. I used to spend the week before Ash Wednesday wondering what I could live without, and what my family and friends could live with me living without (it’s not coffee), and how grumpy I’d be by the end of the 4x10 days. The only highlight was being able to tell my friends I did it, when it was all over with (in case you are wondering, no, I did not listen to today’s reading (Matthew, Chapter 6: 1-6, 16-18)). Of course, I completely missed the entire purpose of Lent. I’ll be presumptuous and assume I’m not the only one.
Lent revolves around acknowledging that we all have faults. Giving something up is essential, because in doing so we acknowledge that Whatever We Gave Up On was impeding us in our relationship with God. Lent is about losing the Loser is us. And, as is usual with God, we lose to gain and gain by losing: Lent is all about the second purpose of pain. It focuses on the idea that, through the suffering of sacrifice, we gain virtues. We learn to depend more on God and less on whatever mundane thing we have come to depend upon. We learn prudence instead of greed, humility instead of pride, charity instead of selfishness, etc. “What are you giving up for Lent?” can just as easily be said “What are you getting in Lent?” The goal of Lent is to become a better person.

I'll admit here that I like to resolve to DO something in addition to abstaining, however. We are Catholic, after all, and defined just as much by our action as our lack of.

This Lent I have resolved to pray for forty people—one per day—and their special intentions. I have a few people on the list, but there is still quite a bit of room. If you have an intention and would like for me to pray for you this Lent, please send me an email at or comment in the comment section below.

I’ve also resolved to meditate on the Stations every day. I did this last year, and it was a disaster, because I am not very contemplative and am, frankly, bad at praying (please pray for me about that). If however, I come up with a good reflection, I might, maybe (probably not) post it here (I don’t think that would violate Matthew 6 because no one reads SHB anyway).

That all said, this is just the beginning of Lent. Today is the day where everyone is still fresh in their resolutions; their expectations for success are still high. That level will drop by the mid Lent. That’s when it feels like you have been coffee- or whatnot- deprived forever, and that you have infinity to go before you get it. Be doubly good, and offer that suffering up for a poor soul in Purgatory. If you do give in, don't beat yourself up over it. Remember that if you hadn't been so severely tempted, it wasn't much of a sacrifice to begin with. And acknowledging the need to Lose is the first step to gaining.

So, I’ll be praying for you this Lent—whoever you are—that you can find your Gift in your Giving, and that you can stick to your resolution. Good luck!

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