We all made it through the exciting first day of Lent (and there’s no possible way you could’ve missed it what with all the Facebook reminders to “Attend Ash Wednesday!” and blogs with suggestions on what to do for Lent or explanations of what I am or am not giving up, etc.).
On Thursday, we faced the reality of what we gave up for the next 40 days when we realized how challenging this or that things might be to do or not to do.
And, now we’re sitting here on our first Meatless Friday – perhaps having forgotten and had a bite of meat to eat and then face-palming upon remembering the Lenten season.
Hopefully, we are finally firmly planted in Lent. With our sacrifices imbedded in our brain, we’re suddenly noticing what others are doing or seeing it unfold as we spend time with our friends and family and someone orders water instead of coke or is reading a book when they would normally be watching TV.
It’s great to be interested in what other people are giving up, doing, praying, etc. for the sake of entering into this holy season and it’s important that we support and encourage one another. But, we have to be careful that we don’t become….
THE LENTEN POLICE.
We all have them in our lives – the people who give no leeway whatsoever on lenten sacrifices. They say things like:
“You ate a piece of bacon on Friday? You should probably go to confession.”
“Do two pieces of toast and one egg REALLY count as a small meal? Really?”
“Don’t you think that’s cheating a little bit on your sacrifice? Sure it’s a special occasion, but you said ‘no beverages’ and that glass of wine is clearly a beverage.”
“You shouldn’t give up your sacrifices on Sunday. That’s cheating.”
Alrighty, folks. It’s awesome that we want to call each other on to be the best people we can be and make good on our “promises”. But, we are not called to be the Pharisees, who gave no leniency about the law at all and were overly scrupulous of everyone’s, including their own, actions.
Lent is about personal growth and spirituality. It’s about your relationship with God and not someone else’s perception of your relationship with God or your perception of what someone else is doing. It’s about digging deep within the realities of our own lives to make better choices, bigger sacrifices, or change things so that we can have a deeper understanding and appreciation of what Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the Cross really means for us, individually.
It is much like one’s prayer life – certain forms of prayer, amount of prayer, ways of praying, etc. are very personal to them. And, how it all works in one’s journey towards heaven is between them and God. Lenten sacrifices are personal to one’s spiritual growth and there’s no wrong or right way to practice them.
When someone asks for input or guidance on the sacrifices they’ve made, then, if we feel we have a close enough relationship with them, we can offer suggestions or advice. Otherwise, I think it might be a good sacrifice for people to just stay out of it.
So, I guess what I am asking my good and faithful Catholic friends is this - disband the Lenten Police! Let me have my Lent and I’ll let you have yours. Let’s make this journey towards Easter in solidarity of spirit, trusting that others have worked it out the details of their trip with the Almighty Father.