Monday, February 8, 2016
Thursday's Paper Wraps Friday's Fish
That's an expression I grew up with in Nova Scotia. We ate fish on Friday's (I still do). The expression comes from the practice of wrapping leftovers in the newspaper of the day before and then throwing the lot out. It captures well the passing nature, the relative unimportance in the overall scheme of things, of much of what we get excited about at any given moment. What makes headlines one day is often quickly forgotten and discarded by the next.
Lent begins on Wednesday of this week. This is a sacred time to focus on what is, in fact, of lasting - indeed, everlasting - importance. In this sacred time we ponder what matters, and ask for the grace to let go of those attachments which don't.
What matters is Jesus, and our relationship with him. On Sunday we heard St. Paul put it this way: "I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve." Christ crucified and risen! Now THAT'S a headline, meant to stay always on the front page of our minds and reflect accurately the news we make of our lives.
Last week, in the course of a visit to a group of adults preparing to become Catholic at Easter, I discussed with them the meaning of Lent and how we observe it. Our discussion at one point revolved around the questions of what to give up and take up. We talked about how we have to recall, before all else, what is "of first importance": who Jesus is and who we are called to be in him. In this light, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us discern what unholy attachments need to be abandoned (what do I give up for Lent?), and what do I need to begin doing (what do I take up?) in order to live more faithfully as a disciple (prayer, almsgiving, good example, etc.).
In these days prior to Ash Wednesday, let this be our prayer. Let's ask the Holy Spirit, first of all, to help us know and preserve what is of first importance, and thus enable us to see the change being asked of us. May the season of Lent be a time of genuine conversion and renewal for us all.