February 10, 2008
First Sunday of Lent
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
A few days leading up to Ash Wednesday I am always asked the same question; "So. Father what are you giving up for Lent?" I always say the same thing; "Marriage. That's what I am giving up." And I always get the same puzzled look and the open mouth wanting to ask me if I am serious. I know, I know. I shouldn't make light of such a question but I use it to try and open a conversation about what we do when we give up something for Lent.
We usually hear the same things when we talk about Lent. We often hear how many folk give up candy, soda, chips, etc. This got me to thinking. Why do we always give up a luxury item for Lent? A luxury item is something we don't need in the first place and we will just pick it up again as soon as Easter Sunday arrives. Where is the sacrifice? It isn't hard to give up something we don't really need in the first place. In fact I wonder if many times we give up things for Lent that were actually part of our New Year's Resolution. If we pledged to lose weight in the New Year we have probably fudged on that resolution and had the forbidden fruit we swore to give up. Enter Lent! Why not give up those fattening delicacies for Lent? Surely if we do it for God we won't fudge and sneak a bite of that forbidden delicacy! So again, where is the sacrifice?
Now I am not judging anyone for giving up a luxury item for Lent. I have the luxury items that I have given up for Lent too so please don't say that I am judging you. Okay? Now, while driving to an event the other day I was reminded of why I hate driving. While trying to merge onto 265 I was run off the road by someone who was, of course, talking on the mobile phone and not paying any attention. And as the mean words were coming out of my mouth, yes I must confess to experiencing road rage, the thought hit me of how good it would be to give up road rage for Lent. In fact, why don't I give up a bad habit for Lent and in return take up a good habit? That is what sacrifice is about. It is about doing something so important that our life becomes different.
Lent is about change. It is about our striving to simplify our life and rid ourself of the things that get in the way of our relationship with God and one another. Lent is about honoring the sacrifice Christ made for us. Christ's sacrifice transformed the world and made us one with God. Shouldn't our sacrifice during Lent be something that will make each of us different and a better Christian? I believe that is what we should be going for.
Why not give up the habit of road rage and in turn take up the habit of praying for the person who just cut us off and ask God to get that person home safely? Why not give up the habit of gossiping and in turn take up the habit of saying something nice when we are tempted to say something harmful? Why not give up the habit of being selfish and in turn take up the habit of doing something good for the people we may not be too keen on? Wouldn't these sacrifices make more of a difference than giving up chocolate? Wouldn't these types of sacrifices help us to be better Christians and just down right better people? I believe they can and will if we are willing to do the hard work of sacrifice. Keep in mind that these are just a few examples that came off the top of my head. I am sure that each of us can look inward and find several bad habits to give up and replace them with good habits.
If we give up the bad habits in exchange for good, I believe that come Easter Sunday we will discover that we not only celebrate Christ's resurrection but also our own resurrection to a life that is filled with more peace, hope, and joy. I believe that we will definitely be a nicer lot if we sacrifice our bad habits and take on good habits. Maybe, just maybe, we will not pick those bad habits up again like we will pick up the chocolate again on Easter Sunday.