When I was growing up in my large (ten of us kids, plus mom and dad, a dog named Buttons and a canary named Lance), Lent was a big deal. A really big deal.
Within the forty days, there would be one trip to church on a Saturday for visit in the confessional. There was the Lenten Candle that we would have a ceremony involving prayer and a scripture reading each Sunday before our dinner together.
There would be a rosary or two, maybe three, all of us kneeling and praying together in the living room with Dad and Mom leading. We would receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, go to church on Good Friday, light candles on Holy Saturday, and then church on Easter morning. A really big deal.
Growing up, we had to give up something for Lent. It had to be something important to us and my Dad would have veto rights. It might be something like no soda a couple nights a week, or no TV on a certain night, or no desserts. We would pick something and we’d have to live with that choice for all of Lent, for all of the forty days. Heck, sometimes it felt more like forty years, especially if it was a no dessert option.
It was Father Mike who in late elementary school, talked to us about the necessity of repairing relationships. Relationships with God . . . with each other . . . with ourselves. In his eyes, Lent was the perfect opportunity for this, although he suggested that it should be done all the time, not just in those forty days.
I still practiced this routine well into my adult life, but I did change it up some.
While living and working in Omaha, I met Father Paul, a tall, gentle priest who in college was actually a theater major. His sermons were like one act plays: at once entertaining and meaningful. I remember really clearly that at the beginning of Lent one year, Father Paul gave a sermon about doing something rather than giving up something. He used the words, “Why give a gift of a ball and bat to a child, if you’re not going to go out and play with the child?” That question, that idea, has stuck with me all these years.
Doing Something instead of Giving Something Up.
The more I think about it, especially as time goes on and I advance along the path on the Other Side Of The Mountain (a previous post), the more these two ideas go hand-in-hand.
Repairing Relationships, and Doing Something instead of Giving Something Up.
I think both can . . . and should . . . happen. Not just during Lent, but all the time, every day, throughout the year. We can, and should, repair damaged, hurt relationships, by doing something about them. It doesn’t matter who the relationship is with. It could be with God; it could be with others; it could be with ourselves.
If there is damage . . . if there is something not quite right, it behooves us to do something differently in how we act, in how we speak, in how we listen, in how we think. Perhaps we need to reach out and risk being pushed away. Perhaps we need to reach out again and risk being pushed away again. And again.
Lent is a good time to change direction. Lent is a good time to take stock of where we are, what we do, what we’re about. Lent is a good time to course correct. It is a good time to change what we have been doing and try something a bit different. And just as important, why should we limit this change of direction, this course correction to forty days in the Spring? Perhaps it’s something we might do each and every day. I have a feeling it might make our lives . . . and the lives of others . . . better. Something to think about . . .