Sunday, March 1, 2009

Give it Up this Season

Readings: First Sunday in Lent

In our readings we go from God's covenant to Noah and all living creatures that survived the Great Flood, to the Jesus being baptized by John. The images are of a purification by water: first as a punishment/trial and then as a cleansing immersion. The first letter of Peter comments on both. There is much to talk about in these short texts, but I want to focus on the tradition of Lent itself.

Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan. Not coincidentally, the Hebrew Bible tells of the Great Flood occurring some thousand year earlier, during which it rained 40 days and 40 nights while Noah rescued his family and various creatures by taking them into the ark he had built at the LORD's bidding. Lent has become a 40 day period to commemorate Jesus' ordeal, and as a way of preparing to honor the sorrowful mysteries of Holy Week, which includes remembering Jesus' death by crucifixion on Good Friday.

Lent is a period of "pre-mourning." It used to be a period of actual fasting, at least by forgoing red meat. Now many Christians "fast" by abstaining from something, or giving something up, for Lent. A person might give up eating chocolate during Lent, or driving, for examples. We could abstain from things we like to eat, or to drink, or to do.

But those are essentially our amusements or innocent enjoyments. What about our Sins? What about identifying some way you habitually sin, and refraining from that for the 40 days of Lent?

In case you need a reminder, the four basic Sins are that we are estranged from God, the world, each other, and ourselves. We exhibit these estrangements in Capital Sins like Pride, Avarice, Envy, Anger, Lust, Gluttony and Sloth. We can oppose these Capital Sins in ourselves by practicing Capital Virtues like Humility, Liberality, Fraternity, Meekness, Chastity, Temperance, and Diligence.

If these words are too big for you, then look them up. If you're too lazy to do that, then just think about the ways in which you're an asshole. Then, try not to be such an asshole until Easter.

May God forgive you for the times you fail, may God bless you for those times you realize that you failed, and may God make his face to particularly shine on you for those times when you succeed. Amen.

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