1st Sunday of Lent

First Sunday of Lent YEAR B

Recently I visited schools in the parish to administer the ashes on Ash Wednesday. To get them in the spirit of the season of Lent, and the occasion of the annual receiving of ashes I asked the students what they considered the hardest things to give up. Three of the hardest things to give up – in their world-view – all turned out to begin with the letter C –they were computer usage, crisps (chips), and coming in at #1 – chocolate, of course!

When you think about it, there are three things, at no matter what age, that all begin with the letter ‘C’ as well that are difficult for all of us, as adults, to let go.

The first ‘C’, at the level of self, is Comfort. We can call them ‘creature comforts, our comfort zone, or comfort foods, comfort eating etc. Fasting and abstinence cause us to ponder on our ‘relationship with food’. Of course we need to eat to live, but how often do we dwell on living to eat?! We often eat for comfort and habit, rather than eating what is sufficient and moderate for our bodily needs. We have plenty of storage to show for how eat we eat!
It takes apparently three weeks to acquire a new habit – we must do something consistently daily for three weeks before we do it automatically or unconsciously. It is good to moderate our food intake and regularity in order to have a greater sense of our gratitude for what we have at our disposal. To moderate and control our appetite for food gratuitously is the key to controlling our other bodily animal appetites that want to master and control us. We also learn a sense of appreciation of what we take for granted that so many often worlds’ poor lack. What we choose to do without is not a choice for them. A prayer I have composed along the lines of the Serenity Prayer is:

God, grant me a sense of appreciation of what I have
An awareness of what others lack
And a spirit of almsgiving to make up the difference

The second ‘C’ is at the level of our relationships with others, is Convenience, especially if others require our valuable free time. Our neighbours can be a chore, and we likewise can be a chore for them – at times! How often we prefer to suit ourselves, avoid inconvenience and the time it takes to listen to a grievance, a problem, a complaint. A telephone call, a letter, a visit all make demands of our time and mess up our carefully laid plans for our day. Do we close the door on someone for example, or cross the street to avoid a beggar, check our caller ID and hesitate before answering, and therefore not answer the call of Christ in our neighbour in time of need: ‘whatsoever you do (or fail to do), you do (or neglect to do) to me’ (Mt 25). The C required of us in this instance is therefore Charity, and the Community [and therefore too the Church].

The third ‘C’ is in our relationship with God is the C of Control.

It means in other words, ‘your will be done, not mine’. If we learn to say them often we will learn to mean them and accept the reality that we are not and never have been in complete control of our destiny anyway – but God does require us the ‘c’s our consent and conscious consistent co-operation, also called ‘constancy’. As we drop the ‘c’s of our comfort and convenience in the season of Lent, the Passion of Christ comes into clearer focus. The C of the Cross looms more closely on the horizon later in Lent, and we are called on Lenten Fridays, and in Holy week, to ponder on the Passion and death of Christ. Christ willingly gave Himself up to death for sinners. ‘My food is to do the will of My Father’. All our lives and our frequent falls are a litany of our failures to effectively carry put God’s will before our own. There is great peace of mind in surrendering completely, no holds barred, no ‘ifs and buts’, no clauses, no ‘terms and conditions’ of cessation of contract.

Do you want to now Hell’s theme song? ‘I did it my way!’
We must all learn to surrender to God completely eventually. Kimberly Hahn, the wife of the famous convert Scott Hahn, was slowly edging towards full communion with the Catholic Church. She found numerous intellectual obstacles to becoming Catholic, even though she could see the sense of many of the Church’s teachings. She decided one year to undertake a Lenten resolution and asked God what she would give up. She felt the Lord reply to her in her mind: ’Kimberly, why don’t you just give up?!’
Maybe that is the message we most need to adopt today. Give yourself up.

Have a blessed Lent!

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