What are you giving up?” Any Catholic who grew up in the “pre-Vatican II” era would immediately know what this question is referring to—especially if you attended a parochial school taught by nuns. It means, “What are you giving up for Lent?” The answer of most school kids back then was somewhat the same—candy, soda, or television. Although the good sisters suggested that giving up fighting with our siblings would be even better, I personally thought that was just a bit too much to give up.
Isn’t it true how easily we can get attached to things. Now that the cell phone has become mainstream and no longer a status symbol, I know there are some of you who might get more than annoyed if you had to give it up! Soon kids will be asking, “What was life like before cell phones. I mean, how did people contact you when you weren’t home?” How true it is—we quickly become best buddies with comfort and convenience; yet as you know, there is always a price we must pay.
Lent is a time to look at our attachments—and not only material things or objects—but attitudes. As our doctors can now scan our bodies looking for problems, this is the time to ask for some help to “scan our souls” and to look deep within for things which can be suspicious and maybe malignant. No doubt, some… are quite comfortable with such examinations and are quick to get at the problem area. Some, for example, have a spat with their spouse; yet they never allow the sun to set on their anger. Instead, the whole affair ends with an apology and a goodnight kiss. Others, however, refuse to admit any guilt and spend years in a cold war. These couples have become quite comfortable with their illness.
Have you ever had something—an article of clothing, for example—that spends most of its life hanging on for dear life in a dark closet or buried in some overstuffed drawer? Maybe it was a gift from grandma or a hand-me-down which once belonged to dear ol’ dad. While our prized possession serves no other purpose but to take up space, the chilling thought of getting rid of our family heirloom borders on sacrilege or treason. Of course, occasionally we take out our treasure and try it on; it is stretched here and it sags there, and it may be just a bit threadbare at the elbows, but besides the broken zipper and a few missing buttons, it looks almost new! Maybe, just maybe, you will wear it in when the weather warms up a bit.
…Lent is an old English word, “lengthen,” which means “springtime.” Lent commemorates the time Our Lord fasted and prayed and was tempted in the desert; therefore, it is a time characterized by prayer, reflection, fasting and abstinence. Our interior attitude or spiritual posture is expressed in the somber violet which is worn by the priest and which decorates the sanctuary. Lent is, in essence, a time to look inside ourselves and open that interior dark closet and overstuffed drawer. It is a time to ask ourselves if we have become accustomed and attached to what is obviously ugly and outdated.
If you are serious about spring cleaning your soul, you must be honest and objective. This is why an extra set of eyes and expert advise is always helpful when making decisions about what stays put and what is put into the garbage. This is but one reason we have the sacrament of confession—we don’t have to do the dirty work alone. This means, instead of going to confession with our wrinkled and weary list of sins, we go in “with a pen and pad,” which means an attitude of openness and a desire to get the job done right. This task begins and is made easy by asking a simple question: “Father, can you help me make a good confession?”
Maybe if we ask for help, we may not only find more junk than we expected, we just might find more room within us for peace and joy. So there they hang—uglier than grandma’s kelly green sweater or dad’s plaid jacket—guilt, shame, anger, lust, resentment. So, what are you giving up this Lent?
God bless you,
Fr.Glenn Sudano CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary, Newark, NJ