Lent began this week. Traditionally Catholic Christians go to Mass on Wednesday and have a cross smudged on their foreheads with ashes – an outward sign of our mortality. Ironically at Ash Wednesday Mass we hear Matthew’s Gospel tell us, “Do not look gloomy like hypocrites” “wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting”. I’ve always found this somewhat puzzling. Matthew tells us, “your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” but we dutiful Catholics march off proudly showing our ashes to all who can see.
Most Catholics also “give up” something that they love as a sacrifice to honor the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us or to remind us of the suffering of others. What I vividly remember as a child are anxious adults who would give up smoking or coffee or alcohol. As a kid I would sometimes give up candy (but not the chocolate kind) and end up as irritable as the adults – forty days without Bit-O-Honey! While I admire the idea of sacrificial suffering, perhaps giving up my favorite candy bar or vice isn’t necessarily the best way to honor Christ during Lent.
This Lenten season I am going to give up something (again). This year I’m going to purge. I’m going to clean out closets and give (things that I used to love) to those in need. I’m going to simplify my diet and donate excess food to a pantry. But mostly I’m going to try to get rid of the stuff that I really don’t need. I’m going to try to unload some of the crap that I’ve been piling up and carrying around far too long.
- It’s time to let go of anger and resentment.
- It’s time to say goodbye to disappointment and heartache.
- It’s time to leave gossip, backbiting and hurtful words alone.
- It’s time to give up prejudice and hatred.
It’s time to pack up and ship out all the garbage that keeps me from loving and being loved. I’m going to purge. I’m making a concerted effort to unload, unpack, and rid myself of anything that damages my relationships with others and God.
Truth be told, it would be much be easier to give up my favorite glass of wine or dessert than any of this stuff. But I will try, and try again…