It’s a Wonderful Lent

I picked up the mail just now and on the top of the stack sat an ad flyer that excitedly announced, “Pizza and Preplan!”

I like pizza well enough but as I went to turf the flyer in the trash, the subtitle caught my eye: “Enjoy free pizza as our mortuary experts discuss options to ease the emotional and financial burden for you and your family.”

It was an ad for a local funeral home.

I guess they figure that that ole double cheese and pepperoni is the sugar that makes the medicine of mortality go down.

Which brings me to Ash Wednesday and the Lenten journey it launches.

Confession time: I love Lent.

Lent lays out our lives in miniature, across 40 days, after the pattern of the wandering Israelites in Exodus. The holy season starts with an ash-bedecked reminder that we’re creatures moving toward an unavoidable end; we proceed along the way by saying no to our grasping, gasping selves. By the (let’s face it, nominal) traditional fasting practices, we make the Self ache for Home. Setting aside 40 days (minus Sundays) our holy Mother the Church gives us a chance to gain self-mastery.

“No” gets a bad rap today. But no is the needed guardrail that makes the yes travel in the right direction. What Olympic athlete ever won even a bronze medal without being on first name basis with the word no?

No sets a limit. It cancels out X so you can devote your attention to Y. Lent invites us to ask: am I saying no, and yes, to the right things? Am I doing the first things first?

A good thing to give up this Lent: yourself.

Give up running from the presence of perfect love. Slow down. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18).