Let’s all give up “giving up”
I won’t argue about who had this thought first – Pope Francis or me – but I suggested this to the parishioners of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee, KS, at the close of their parish mission, and in the spirit and sparkle of Mardi Gras.
This Lent, let’s all give up GIVING UP. Let’s replace this preposition UP with a few others that might lead us into a less self-centered piety, a less individual practice of discipline. Lent is far more about our entering into the heart of Christ and his passionate saving love for humankind, our stepping out of personal penance to be more loving, merciful and compassionate.
How about Giving TO? Or Giving FOR? Or Giving OF? Or Giving IN? Or Giving BY? Or Giving THROUGH?
Yes, we are dust, and prove it to ourselves and others regularly. But we haven’t returned to dust yet, and our repentance can be actively responsive to the tears of the world – offering the love and care needed in our families, communities, ministries, for the little ones and the elderly, the displaced, the grieving, the shattered, and all the vast and varied hungers and thirsts crying out from our blue planet. What OF ourselves and our time and our talents and our service, and IN forbearance and forgiving, THROUGH our smiles, our attention, our patience and our prayer? What about BY letter-writing and phone calls and stopping in to visit?
The Divine Passion is hardly confined to one week at Lent’s end
What about THROUGH/BY/IN our hope and our humor and our joy? While we may not sing A******A during these Lenten days, still as St. Ireneaus has reminded us, we Christians certainly can and should BE one, “from head to foot.” And philosopher (and atheist) Friederich Nietzsche once wrote, “For me to believe in their God, Christians should look more redeemed and sing better songs.”
So, no matter your particular preferred preposition, remember that Christ IS Risen and always and ever among us. Lent does not darken this reality but is a call to deepen it, to practice it, and to preach this amazing Grace – because the Divine Passion is hardly confined to one week at Lent’s end. It is the Immense Eternal Yearning of the Trinity to grasp and to transform us, and to burst forth in our loving and giving. Lent calls us to active immersion in the saving mystery of redemption. So try it: let’s look more redeemed, and practice our singing, and play with some different prepositions.