Towards A New View of Lent:
Giving up what… to get… What?
There is a tale for Lent that comes from a far-off place… One day, the Devil decided to close up shop in a certain part of the world, and so he decided to hold a fire sale and an attitude auction. Some evil people were pleased to get his tools like fear, ignorance and prejudice and be able to play his infernal games at half price…
But one person seeking to be more spiritual and caring, wandered into the shop. Intensely curious, he looked around at all the tricks of deception and the tools of malice, until he spotted the quality on the highest shelf that had the highest price. Boldly, he asked the devil what that quality was, and why was it so expensive. The devil replied, “That is discouragement. Why is it so expensive? That’s simple. It’s my favorite. With the tool of discouragement, I can pry into any person or any group and cause all kinds of havoc and damage.”
Let us light the chalice this morning for hope, for compassion, for the courage to look deeply at ourselves. By not being discouraged by life’s challenges, we uncover the diamonds among the dust, to find new insights and opportunities, and learn how best to accept ourselves as being love-worthy, just, and kind.
Our religious world seems to governed by two kinds of people with two different attitudes; there are those who love only themselves, and then have a disdain for God or goodness, and there are those who love God or goodness, but depreciate themselves. In truth, we can only truly love and appreciate ourselves as we love and as we appreciate God or what is good. St. Augustine -adapted
Children’s presentation: Believe it, Achieve it!
How many of you know about Star Wars?
Here is a lesson from Luke Skywalker to each of you… In the Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, Luke flies his X-wing star-fighter to a swampy planet on a personal quest. He landed safely, but his jet got stuck in the swamp and soon it started to sink. There he seeks out a Jedi master named Yoda to teach him all the secrets in becoming a Jedi warrior. Luke wants to free the galaxy from the oppression of the evil tyrant, Darth Vader.
Yoda reluctantly agreed to begin to train Luke and started by teaching him how to lift small rocks with his mind, just by thinking about them. Then, one day, Yoda instructed Luke to lift his space jet out of the swamp, where it had sunk. Luke complained that lifting rocks is one thing, but lifting his star-fighter is quite another matter! But Yoda insisted. Luke makes a quick valiant attempt, but fails in his attempt.
Yoda then focuses his mind, and lifts the star-fighter up out of the swamp with ease! Luke, being discouraged, exclaimed, ” How did you do that?” I don’t believe it!”
Yoda replied, “exactly. That’s why you couldn’t lift it yourself. You didn’t believe that you could.”
A Personal Lenten Remembrance : Ash Wednesday 1959
It was a damp, dreary and cold afternoon as I recall. Like many others, I knew we were dutifully on our way to church. It was a gray, late February day that was to begin another long Lenten season. It was Ash Wednesday, a somber day. We, the fearful and the faithful, assembled in the church, sitting in the foreboding shadows. Together, one could almost hear a dull, aching sigh come from our collective hearts. It was Lent; the time for inward sadness, a time when our spirits could become sullen and cold.
As I watched the others awaiting their turn to receive their mortal mark, I could feel the awkward tension, a deep desire among the people not to be there, yet there was this equally strong compulsion, a feeling of being riveted to this necessity and it s tradition.
Soon it was my family’s turn to kneel before the priest. Slowly, ever so reluctantly, each shuffled obediently up to the altar rail. People, feeling ever so small, wearing the lines of remorse and regret across their faces, knelt with apprehension. I began to hear the ominous words pronounced over each person as their foreheads were blackened with the charred ash of last year’s palms, to seal our human fate.
“Thou are dust,” The crucifix, the terse look on the priest’s face, the smell of ash in the damp chilly air, assaulted my senses and make my mind spin with questions. What was I to do? My indecision decided for me- an insistent nudge and I was before the priest.
Our eyes lock briefly in a severe stare. He stood over me and pronounced those awful words that hurt my ears. With a hard, cold imprint, he left a black smudge on my forehead- as a symbolic death mark within this time of self scrutiny and mourning. This was our mark of Cain, the imprint of our fleshly curse, all from a pessimistic church doctrine of control that enforced the belief that life must achieve death to allow the soul to be released from this all too weary world.
For a long while in my life, and before I sought to redeem and resolve those life experiences into the wisdom that would free me, because each Lenten season, I could easily recall those times of early anguish and negative emotional intensity. As I have worked to release myself in adulthood and provide others with new rituals that affirm positive meanings, I can begin to gain insight and value from the 40 days known as Lent. I am glad to be freed from any mandatory observances, and can welcome its arrival more each year as a time for thoughtful reflection, and a precious time when I could add to and deepen my self-understanding, personal growth and emotional healing.
Lent, this year, ends the wintry days of my soul. It begins to speak to me of new hopes, not far off. It is a time for preparing new beginnings, as surely as the Spring will soon emerge with its greening energy around me.
Yes, it is the time of Lent. …
May I continue to learn, ripen, deepen and discover more from it each year. May our collective hearts no longer groan, but become renewed through the message of becoming more soulful, compassionate and loving toward ourselves and others. Through reflection on our lives, Lent will help to make us ready for the next days of Spring, and living more fully in an increasing light.
Self-control- against which there is no law; for through having empathy and understanding of our needs and desires, and through a more calm, objective and invincible caring for ourselves and others, that which is best in us, that is truly good for us, can be attained and realized.
Meditations on being a Parish Priest