Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A More Light-Hearted Lent




ASHES IS JUST THE START OF LENT,  the way an old-time farmer would begin by spreading wood-ashes (poor man's manure) on  the field, orchard or garden to increase the summer yields. Pray it's safe to say we all want to do more for Lent than just "get ashes."

Lent is the Church's Springtime. It's the inner project whereby something new comes alive in us. I'm to live in such a way these forty days that come Easter, in some way I will be changed. Springtime: Warming, Increasing, Thawing, Melting, Birth-ing, Greening. Lent-Easter says: See, we can change!

Just giving up things doesn't really effect this process in any way. We need a project that gets inside, that takes us up and alongside Christ-Risen in his NEWNESS. The giving up of sugar, alcohol, meat and fun serves to keep the idea of Lent in the forefront - but the real doing of Lent is interior. 

Here's a Lenten idea that might shake-up our worlds a bit. It's called the 3 C's: No Complaining. No Criticizing. No Condemning. It would admittedly be easier to just give up candy and call it a day. I've called this post A More Light-Hearted Lent, because when I recommend the 3 C's to people, most of them smile or laugh outright because they know how soaked we are in complaining, criticizing and condemning, and that getting rid of it won't be easy.

We might begin by just listening to ourselves over the next week before Ash Wednesday to see how much of it we share: criticizing and complaining about a spouse, about the kids, about our parents,  the teacher, the homework, the others on the team, the food,  the weather, the president, about the way things are, the traffic, the prices, the boss, the stores, about money, about our health, about the housework, the customers, the neighbor's kids, the people on the road, the colleagues, the waitress, about not being appreciated, not understood, about the work I have to do, about not getting any help...!

If we want or need to, we can fine tune complaining, criticizing and condemning as to what the differences are. Maybe they are just to be reduced to one word: negativity. And when negativity gets a real hold on us then we become cynics. Was it Bob Dylan who sang or said: You can't please a cynic if you try.

Alice Herz-Sommer the oldest known Holocaust Survivor recently died at 110. She saw humanity at its worst. When her family was being taken away, the neighbors quickly came to the apartment  to remove what they wanted from the family's belongings: dishes, clothing, furniture, pictures, rugs. pots and pans.

In the short documentary about her life that is airing these days, she said, "I think about the good. That takes a lot of practice."




8 comments:

  1. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy and happiness, or negativity and pain. To feel the freedom that comes from being able to make these choices is God's gift. I will use this Lent to embrace my humanity and choose to let go of the negative thoughts that weigh me down. Thank you for lighting the path to this decision. Sometimes it takes a little push in the right direction and then momentum comes.

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    1. We might consider a news blackout for the forty days of Lent - the news so filled with divisive negativity. It'll all be there when we return, right where we left it. Read good books and listen to good music instead.

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  2. I read the title with great interest. A light hearted Lent seemed to be out of the normal realm of what we perceive Lent to be. But of course it was about choosing the harder path. Making the more difficult choice of doing rather than giving up. How many will rise to the occasion I wonder? I don't know if I can make it throuh even one day without complaining about something most likely insignificant, but the awareness will be there and I will try.

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    1. And I will try too. I was just talking with three old friends and told them that for Lent I was "giving up negativity." They laughed, but understood. I told them that I would begin by putting myself on a news blackout. Then in thinning out some bookshelves I came across a book I bought many years ago by Brother David Steindl-Rast: Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer. There's my Lenten read. Lent isn't supposed to give us a stomach ache or head ache - but it's supposed to make us more alive humanly.

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    2. I am already grateful for this encouragement. It means so much to know we can take strides to better ourselves as human beings. And if we can do this for Lent, we may be able to carry it past Easter and into our daily living. That is my hope. I am tired of thinking how I can better myself. I am now going to take this as a sign to take action. I am so grateful on the inside I feel the burdens already lifting.

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  3. This is one of the best things I have come across while looking for a way to prepare for Easter. I shall look within myself. And thank you to the other commentors for giving the hope that we will make these efforts together.

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  4. A young boy emailed this morning to ask what he should give up for Lent. He was thinking food and fun. Instead, the Three C's - Come Easter the world will be a better place and our participation in the new life of Christ will be more evident. May the Lord bring to completion the good begun in you!

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