“The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!”
Most of us met Chicken Little and her friends Henny Penny and Ducky Lucky a long time ago. Some of us remember the story as being about a silly chicken and how Foxey Loxey took advantage of their unthinking panic and ate them up! Great kids’ stuff, right?
So what happens in my mind when I hear, “Lent is coming! Lent is coming!”? Do I panic, envisioning a long, distasteful and jejune road spreading endlessly before me? Is my first thought, “What am I going to give up?” Often this implies the deprivation of sweets, caffeine, alcohol, or whatever else makes life pleasurable. Am I just hoping to survive this ecclesial death march so I can get back to “normal life” again?
Stop this thinking! These thoughts are like dismissing the value and purpose of all those preparations we go through for months (or longer, sometimes) as we prepare for that ‘wedding of the century’ for a loved one or that important anniversary that marks a significant milestone in one’s life or in a marriage. No, we don’t count the effort and cost of these preparations. Why? Because our focus in on the joy of the event and the persons we are celebrating. It’s all about the celebration, isn’t it?
As Christians, then, what is our biggest feast of the year? The Resurrection of Jesus at Easter, of course. This Resurrection is what validates our faith and all that goes into it. It is the sign and first fruits of the eternal life we hope in. And as in other parts of human life, preparations need to be made so that we are in the shape and mood to celebrate this day in style.
So the Church gives us a six week time to get ready. We are invited to check out the shape our spiritual life and practices. We are encouraged to use prayer, fasting and almsgiving as tools for our tune-up. These ancient ascetic practices help reframe, rethink (repent) our attitudes as we prepare for Easter.
Prayer doesn’t have to be long; it just needs to be regular, or maybe happen at all. For instance, take a few minutes and read the gospel of the day. Meet Jesus.
Fasting need not include food at all. If we need a diet, go on a diet. Leave God out of it! But we can fast from those things that gobble up our time in empty hours--Like social media, maybe, or computer games, that sort of thing. Instead, how about having coffee or lunch or a phone call with friends who have slipped off our usual speed dial list? Reaching out is a good way to fast.
Almsgiving. Yes , it is beneficial for us to review our acts of generosity. Do it. But how about giving some time, volunteering once in a while? What organization or group in the parish or community could use a hand?
Yes, Lent is coming. But the sky is not falling. Let’s look at Lent as a way of getting ready for an outpouring of life and joy on a cosmic level – the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Who doesn’t want to be ready for that?
A blessed Lent and Happy Easter to all!