I rarely, if ever, do something heroic, but isn’t Lent the time to attempt it? A certain lady of the parish informed me that she intended to give up pizza for Lent. Shortly after Ash Wednesday we found ourselves at a reception that was serving, among other things, pizza. Taking the initiative of saving her from temptation and the possibility of failing in the ancient discipline of penitence, I threw myself on the crusty dough of Italian origin. You would think that a thanks would have been in order; one would also think the police have better things to do than answer complaints from an ungrateful caterer.
The bottom line is: Lord do I hate Lent. Why do we do this to ourselves? We give up things we normally indulge in for the privilege of being tempted by those same items. Instead of running from that which could lead us to sin, we create more opportunities. The minute you give up candy it goes on sale; your favorite beer that you have sworn not to imbibe during the 40 days is advertised for two dollars a case (I now have the answer to how many cases of adult beverage the average two car garage holds). Of course, Lent is not a time for just “give ups,” it is a season for justice and charitable endeavors; however, it’s difficult to visit the sick and imprisoned when you have a blinding headache from giving up coffee for Lent.
In a fit of idiocy, I am excluding all diet soda from my Lenten regimen. When in Iraq I never feared bullets, IEDs, mortars; the ultimate terror was the dining facilities in various outposts being out of diet pop. So far this Lent, I’m doing all right; after three days the tremors subsided, but the hallucinations of being dragged into a moat of colored water by a devil dressed like a box of artificial sweetener continue. Truly, the dark night of the unsweetened soul.
BUT, we need the desert. Jesus went to the desert to be tempted. Whenever he came out of the desert he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and proceeded to heal, cast out demons and teach. As Christians, we imitate Jesus and find our strength in solitude, prayer and a certain amount of deprivation. It enables us to go as the Lord did, to do good and preach the Kingdom of God. Lent is necessary. Now that I’ve admitted that, it’s time to get these cheese stains off my suit coat and see if there’s anymore pepperoni in the pockets.