As we travel through the great forty days of the Lenten season, we might reflect on the benefit of “giving up” all that we do not need in our temporal and spiritual lives. It is customary to forgo one or more habits or indulgences during this penitential season.
Chocolate is high on many lists. The things we choose to give up are small reminders of the forty days Jesus spent in fasting and prayer. The time we spend in prayer and (moderate) fasting during Lent will, if we approach the season with diligent faith, prepare us for the joys of Eastertide. There have been times in our history when the decision to refrain from rich foods and other pleasures was not always a voluntary action. Today, hunger is a serious and sometimes life threatening concern, even in our country. The so-called Great Depression, which occurred nearly a hundred years ago, was certainly a time of great economic upheaval and deprivation.
As a child, I would listen as parents and grandparents spoke of that perilous time. They would often repeat the phrase “you can't take it with you,” as if to redirect their thoughts from what they did not have. Instead, they would identify those things they DID have: family, friends, their churches and the community of people who helped each other through the hard times. There was, in fact, a famous Broadway play called You Can't Take it With You. It was a comedy. During the Great Depression, people needed distractions. And this play delivered the goods. Now, over eighty-five years after it first opened, You Can't Take it With You is still performed on stages throughout the world. The message that real riches come from the love shared between people who assist each other in their temporal journey is eternal and comes from God. What do we take out of our temporal lives.
Well, nothing. For us, it is a little like the proverbial camel who had to travel through the narrow “eye of the needle” in order to enter Jerusalem. The poor beast needed to divest itself of all the rich baggage it carried and crawl on its knees through that tiny doorway. We need to leave it all behind when we approach heaven's gate. Except, of course, that which is of God. That comes with us. All that is of God will return to Him: all that has been done in His name, all the love given and received and especially our immortal souls. What is it that we can put away and forgo during our journey through the narrow gate of Lent? I suspect there is a great deal indeed. I pray that we may all focus our hearts and minds on the life, teachings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. May we remove all the unnecessary baggage, the unhelpful patterns and habits that distract our minds and hearts from our true purpose in this life. May we unburden ourselves that we may enter through the gate that leads us to a Joyous Eastertide.
Your Brother in Christ, +Brian
O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that , our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honor and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.