Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The season of giving up

The Lenten season is upon us. That means a couple of things: Easter is less than seven weeks away and chocolate consumption will plummet as it is the No. 1 item that is sacrificed during Lent (watch out, guys!).

The Sunday before Lent, pastors everywhere likely prepped their congregations for the season’s 40 days, which started on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter.

As a Catholic schoolboy, the season marked a special time in the church year. From Stations of the Cross to the processional and special Masses during Holy Week, I have fond memories from my days of wearing an altar boy’s cassock (we didn’t have altar girls in the 1970s).

The tradition of giving something up for Lent has changed slightly for me. Back then, you gave something up because the priest, the nuns and your parents instilled in you a deep fear that Hell’s fiery gates awaited you if you didn’t. Plus, it would make Jesus sad.

Fear and guilt – two required tools of Catholic parenting.

In middle adulthood, churches today encourage the practice sacrificing something. But it’s less on a physical product – such as chocolate or tobacco – and more on personal habits.

Makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. When you give up a favorite treat, you find yourself – consciously or subconsciously – counting down the days until you can once again be reunited with those salty chips or fined brewed pilsner.

But say you give up gossiping about the neighbors, yelling at your kids less or saying something nice to that co-worker who you can’t stand. Doing that over the course can have a positive effect that can extend beyond the 40 days of Lent (oh, Lord).

When Satan tested Jesus for 40 days in the desert, the Savior didn’t say, “whew, glad that’s over.” He continued to be a positive role model for those around him. The phrase “What Would Jesus Do” isn’t just some catchy marketing slogan. It’s what we – regardless of our beliefs or lack thereof – should put into practice all the time.

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