More Blah, Blah, Blah from Fr. Mark…
This may only confirm your suspicion that as a baby my mother must have dropped me on my head … but I always look forward to Lent. It’s not really because I have suffered brain damage that I so appreciate this season. I learned it in Church. Notice:
“Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Each year you give us this joyful season
when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.”
That’s a quote from the First Preface for Lent, the changeable opening paragraph of the Eucharistic Prayer. “What craziness,” you think. “Lent … a joyful season? But what about all the ‘giving-up’ and ‘self-denial’ … beefing up our efforts at prayer, abstaining from meat, facing our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and considering how Christ suffered for them? How could all of that … any of that, be ‘joyful’?”
Well, it’s not that those things in themselves are always charming and delightful. The joy comes from what these things can accomplish in us. It’s the difference between “means” and “ends.” Think of the dreams we have for ourselves … and the steps we must take to reach them. Sure, practicing the piano, free throws, or dance steps for hours upon hours is drudgery when you’re in the middle of it. The joy comes later, when we can play something by Mozart, nail a game-winning free throw, or waltz with your child at her wedding. Those are the delightful ends. The practice is the way to get there.
Attending Wednesday night Stations, denying yourself some small pleasure, facing our faults, contemplating the Passion story, deepening your prayer … none of these are “the goal of Lent” (taken up for a few weeks, only to be dropped when the season is over). They are “the means” to a deeper relationship in Christ.
So as we prepare to enter into Lent 2018, conjure up what you would want to be with Christ, but aren’t. Hold that thought, and consider how the traditional practices of the season might take you there. Then fire up with me on Wednesday to enter “this joyful season.”
Oh, and from last week’s homily, six common frustrations with prayer … and my snappy responses: I don’t have time! Surely the one who was able to multiply loaves and fish to feed a crowd can make something of our time (chiefly by helping us put things in perspective). I don’t know how to begin! Simply put a chair in front of you and imagine it as God’s throne, and talk to the chair. I find myself saying the same things! As long as what we say is honestly us, God will never tire of it. If you need new words there’s a library of options (just ask me). My thoughts keep drifting! Do what you can to reduce distraction, but if some topic keeps interrupting … maybe that’s the Spirit telling you that this is just the thing you really need to pray about. I keep failing! As a true friend, God is as pleased with our struggling attempts at prayer as our success at it. I’m afraid of the answer I might get! Well, that’s an appropriate enough worry … but as I have already told you two dozen times in my five months with you, God never calls us to a task without providing the tools we need to accomplish it. Bank on it.