Living Lent…

Living Lent… March 5, 2014

in the Fast Lane. Wherein Yr. Obdt. Svt begins with a confession:

I’m pretty lousy at doing Lent. So I’m a natural for yakking about it since (just between you and me) you’re pretty lousy at it too, no? Seriously, who says, “I am the most awesome penitent of all time!”

We all do a lousy job at Lent, by and large, because Lent is about repentance and mortification and preparation for death with Jesus on the cross and  self-donating love that resolutely puts aside our own wants, needs, and  desires aside in favor of obedience to God and the love of our neighbor. And, come on, who wants that?

What I want is what Iwant. I want a salvation that comes with the praises of this world. I  want people applauding me, understanding me, acclaiming my goodness and  intelligence. I want cash prizes and awards ceremonies where (after the  tearful tribute from, say, the Pope which concludes, “Thanks Mark. I  have learned so much from you!”) the people I admire most in  this world leap to their feet and drown me with thunderous applause and  roses. I want pan-fried oysters and lots of ‘em, followed by chocolate  and some favorite movie or book to curl up with. I want leisure to  finally work on that novel I’ve been noodling. I want a prayer life in  which I am given to instantly see and understand divine mysteries and  pain is simply a theoretical problem that, at worst, troubles somebody  else. I want to be seen as generous, but I don’t want it to cost me  anything. I want to have solid abstract answers to the problem of  suffering without needing to actually have any contact with icky,  suffering people. I want to be 19 forever, with a hundred bucks in my  pocket and all the insolence of youth propelling me into a future where  the world is mine, babes are free for the taking, and responsibility is  for suckers, all under a smiling summer sun.

In short, I want God  to finally get over his intractable hostility to the world, the flesh,  and the devil and broker some kind of reasonable compromise between  holiness and selfishness. Can’t we all just get along?

Going into the desert

Lent is the reminder that all this sort of thinking is, well, ashes. Bupkis. Skubala. “Refuse”—as English translators of Scripture politely put it.  It’s the reminder that this passing world is passing indeed and that  none of that stuff is going to matter in the final analysis.  Lent is for focusing the mind, heart, and spirit on God: for getting  away from it all, not on an all-expense-paid Lenten Caribbean Cruise,  but to the desert.

That’s the first thing to notice about Lent:  the desert….. (Go here to read the rest.)

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  • Any chance, Mark, you might give up the adjective “butthurt” for Lent? 🙂

    I speak not as a Reactionary or a defender of them (well, you know that) but as an English major who gets tired of overused adjectives wherever they might occur. And as a mom the expression *always* gives me flashbacks to the days of dealing with diaper-rash, which makes me more sympathetic to the people labeled with this term than I probably ought to be. Surely there’s a better descriptive adjective out there–I mean, you’re the guy who came up with things like Menacing Visigoths of Tolerance, for heaven’s sake!

    • chezami

      Ooooh! English major critique. That hits where it hurts. 🙂 Okay. I’ll scale back. But it is a great word and so descriptive of Reactionary bullying self-pity.

      • Sir, you are a gentleman and a scholar. 🙂

        • Faithr

          Thank you so much for this Erin! I hate and abhor that word and frankly the minute I see it in Shea’s post I stop reading and move off. Terrible word. Please, things in life are crude and ugly enough. Let’s not manufacture more.

        • freddy

          Yes, thank you, Erin! I pretty much have the same reaction to the word as Faithr. I find the word a sad distraction — and I stop reading. I thought maybe it was just me being a lit. loving lily pearl clutcher.

      • She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

        I’ll be the lone voice of dissent here. I actually giggle just a little bit every time I read that word. In my world, giggles are in short supply of late, so please don’t totally remove that word from your blog lexicon. As you are so fond of saying, “Hi, I’m 12. This is funny.” Pax Christi, la tua sorella piccola.

      • Marthe Lépine

        I have a suggestion: The word “crybaby” would perfectly convey the same idea but with less offensive overtones for some people…

  • freddy

    Beautiful article! Will be re-reading as lent progresses.

    (It’s funny, but your intro resonated with me so that I think I could have written it in my sleep; changing “babes” for “dudes” but definitely keeping the oysters!)

    I used to think that Lent was about getting away from the world to get “back” to God. But who gets a “desert vacation?” Lent is really about getting *into* the world, and getting closer to God, as you’ve pointed out. Christ fasting in the desert and Christ preaching the beatitudes are inextricably linked.

    God bless you.

  • KM

    This article resonated with me and will be one of my favorites. Thank you and God bless you.

  • Marthe Lépine

    I really liked the article too, very good and common-sense advice. And I also noted that it does answer some of the questions that had been nagging me lately. Thank you, Mark.