I have a problem with anxiety. Basically, everything can be a cause of worry in life if you look at it the right way. Sunday morning, I was caught up in all of my homework and clarinet practicing (or lack thereof) and wondering how I was going to survive another week. Then at Mass, God sent all of us this beautiful message in the Gospel.
Isn’t it a kind of strange Gospel to read the Sunday before Lent? This is the season which causes every Catholic at some point to wonder, “WHAT ON EARTH AM I GOING TO GIVE UP FOR LENT?!?” As the date draws nearer and nearer to Ash Wednesday, my worry increases exponentially over the fact that I STILL haven’t come up with a Lenten resolution. What if I never think of something to do for Lent? What if I come up with penances that are too hard, and I crash and burn after the first week? What if I’m not being hard enough on myself? What if…
...this isn’t what Lent is about at all?
It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset of penance, suffering, and general unhappiness during Lent. Our discussion after Sunday’s Mass gave me a different perspective on these forty days, however. I think that this viewpoint can make Lent a spiritually refreshing time for us rather than one of apprehension. It can be summed up in three steps: ordering one’s life around God; becoming a trusting person; and living a joyful, loving life.
The first step evolved out of our thoughts on the passage that states, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt 6:24) These harsh words boil down to this: God is the ultimate authority in our lives. Yes we have managers, teachers, and parents that we should honor, but this respect stems from an overarching desire to give glory to God, who placed these people above us. A memorable image presented by an SSP member was a rose window in a cathedral: God is the center, and all the people we serve in life are the pieces of glass radiating out from it. Our lives must be ordered with God at the core, nothing else.
How do we accomplish this? We cultivate trust in God in our everyday lives. The Gospel passage quoted at the beginning of this blog helps me a lot with this. The beauty of flowers (something it seems we’ll never see again after this winter) places a gentle reminder in my heart that God is Goodness, Beauty, and Truth itself. When I consider flowers, I want to center my life around God. They are a reminder that, just as spring will always follow winter, God remains unchanging and constant, always seeking to fill us with new life in Him
Finally, with trust comes joy, because trust lifts the weight of doubt off of our shoulders. Joy in Lent? Of course! Remember the other Gospel passage when Christ rebukes the Pharisees for making a show of their penances? The same applies to us. Fasting is a difficult thing and involves material discomfort, but it is also very liberating. Fasting diminishes worry, because it removes things in our lives that are not essential but still take up space, thought, and time. With this new free time, we can become closer to God and the people He created us to be. Also, we will have more of ourselves to give to others, thus passing on our trust in God so that other people can rely on us as well. It’s always a good feeling to know that you have people in your life to rely on.
So strive to be a light this Lent! Forget about looking frail and faint because you’re working so hard at fasting. Instead, be full of joy! We are in the care of the God of flowers and new life Who is seeking to grow closer to us each day. Remove some of the excess in your life, and fill that empty space with love and virtue this Lent.