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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lent Squared




One of my very favorite things about the Catholic Church is how very, very hairsplittingly precise we can be. As of today, it's not just Lent anymore. It's now Lent 2.0. Lent squared. Lent with those intense trainer people with not an ounce of fat on them that train the tubbies on that TV show where overeaters are forced to stand in front of the nation in their underwear. Yesterday was "Passion Sunday", which marks the beginning of a subseason of Lent as we follow the events leading up to the death of Jesus on the Cross. Passiontide.

Which gives me the perfect opportunity to address this question from a reader about my own Lenten ideals:

Question: If the purpose of giving something up for Lent (such as dieting or smoking) is NOT for a reward at the end, why give up anything at all? Isn't the purpose of giving something up for Lent for the ultimate end reward of eternal life with God? Is an eternity with God in heaven less of a reward than a skinnier behind or pinker lungs?

I am a DRE for our parish, and I teach the kids that they should "give up" something that prohibits them from being closer to God. Theoretically, a person may have a weight issue because they are eating to fill a need. Might I suggest during Lent a person look to God to fill that need rather than food? Isn't the hope that whatever sacrifice is offered during Lent carry forward into the entire year or an entire life?

The reward at the end of Lent is a closer relationship with Jesus. The reward for giving up smoking is a longer life, less stinky clothing, some extra cash and the admiration of your loved ones. And while you may suffer and turn to prayer as a means of coping, the focus is on you and your health, not you and your relationship with Christ.

The same may be said of dieting. If the focus of the outcome of Lent for you is looking better in your jeans, then you are barking up the wrong tree. Even if you try not to focus on how much better you'll look, the fact is, you are going to be enjoying how much better you will be looking. Lent lasts for quite a while. If you diet all through Lent, your Easter bonnet will be the last thing anyone notices on Easter Sunday.

The rewards of Lent are all spiritual. The hope is that the renewed focus on your relationship with Jesus will carry forward into the year and into your life. I maintain that if you want to break bad habits, do it on your own time. Figuring out what need you are filling with Dortios is a very good thing to do, but it has nothing to do with the sacrifice Jesus made for you.

Sometimes simple is better. Give up something you like a lot. One thing. One thing you'll notice every day. And while you do that, you can think about what Jesus did for you.

Think of it as a very long meditation. Utilize the Sorrowful Mysteries.

I suppose there may be one earthly reward for this exercise: a more disciplined mind.

A more disciplined mind that you will be able to put to even better use next time Lent rolls around.

10 comments:

Diane said...

A valid point. However, better baby steps than none at all.
When it comes down to it, all we offer is for our own selfish purposes unless it comes from God first or one has attained a high degree of perfection (which probably came from God, not from self-will or sacrifice.)
Btw, how do you keep the peas from rolling out of your open toed shoes?

Anonymous said...

I just lost a comment I was writting so if this comes in twice just consider that I am not too computer savey.....I am amazed with your intertwining our daily life, ordinary things we dont think about, with how our spiritual life can develop. I am sure hoping that the last two weeks of Lent will be a big boost to my spiritual well being. I needed the blog you posted today. Got me to thinking......I think it was divine intercession that led me to the blog......Love it.....

mph said...

Confused. I thought next Sunday was Passion Sunday and last Sunday was just 5th Sunday of Lent. Isn't Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday the same thing?

Mike said...

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Anonymous said...

We celebrate Passion Sunday this coming Sunday. How did you get a week ahead of us?

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I thought Passion Sunday was this COMING Sunday (March 28) as in Palm Sunday. When I went to church on Sunday, March 21 the reading was about the woman caught in adultery. (And, incidentally... that Gospel always makes me ask, what about the MAN caught in adultery... but that's a separate issue). Is our church a week behind?

Helenrr said...

Hello Anonymous, some of us still recognize Passion Sunday ( the 5th Sunday) before Palm Sunday. You can read about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_Sunday
I personally enjoy the older "traditional" calender before everything was made more 'convenient'. It's not wrong, but it does make me crazy that they (the Church) moved feast days and such, for example, Epiphany, which is (was) the 6th of January, to the closest Sunday. I know why they did it, but I don't like it...the more the merrier I say. :)

Anonymous said...

Re: Mike's comment. I couldn't open in IE either, but in Firefox it came up fine.

mph said...

Thought I'd share my excitement at a missing object turning up in a place I'd searched 3 times after asking St. Anthony for his prayers. Pity I searched through two revolting bins before I found it though.

ex-ex-Catholic said...

Yeh, I always wonder that too, What about the man who the woman committed the adultery WITH? I was happy to hear the priest address that in the homily for once. Christ could've asked that, but he wanted to cut to the chase and take the even higher high road. Had they brought forth the man, it would've delayed the point Christ wanted to deliver, which was "You guys quit being such shmucks, and go worry about your own sins." He would've told the man the same thing he told the woman, just go in peace and sin no more. It was these stoner dudes that really needed a talking-to, so that was where Christ focused his attention. That is how I now understand it.