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For Lent

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Wednesday marks the beginning of the holiest season of the year – Lent.  This is the time of year Christians, mimicking Christ’s 40 days of preparation in the wilderness, prepare for Holy Week when we commemorate Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the events that followed culminating in His crucifixion and resurrection.  In the Lenten mimic of Christ we typically “give up” something as Christ fasted during his time of preparation.

This morning at National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez reflected, through the lens of Fulton J. Sheen, on this “prodigal world:”

The first full week of March this year brings with it the onset of Lent, that penitential time for remembrance of what being Christian should mean in lives and in the world. It comes at a time of scandal – as the once point man for reform in the Catholic Church, Theodore McCarrick, is no longer a priest on the evening of his life. In politics, we’ve seen a celebration of abortion instead of the “safe, legal, and rare” rhetoric that wasn’t so long ago. As we tolerate the unconscionable in refusing to protect infant survivors of abortion – though according to new Marist polling commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, this new open extremism may backfire on the Democratic party, so perhaps they’ll come to reconsider this doubling down on death – many of us rarely look to see what needs are around us, that we can help prevent the next abortion, the next single mother feeling abandoned, the next young man never quite taking flight, that there’s a foster child whose forever home might just be your own.

KLo is here concluding, as I did last week, that only love can overcome the darkness that seems to be so prevalent in country/culture today.  She offers that love in solid, small and concrete actions – being positive in the midst of all this negativity.  A thought which, somewhat shockingly, made me think of Nick Gillespe’s piece on the presdient at CPAC:

It’s way too early to be thinking this, much less saying it, but what the hell: If Donald Trump is able to deliver the sort of performance he gave today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual meeting of right-wingers held near Washington, D.C., his reelection is a foregone conclusion.

The subtitle to the piece reads, “The president’s speech at CPAC was a bedazzling mix of bravado, B.S., humor, and positive vision no Democrat will be able to top.”  Do you see the parallels?  KLo suggests positives acts of love to overcome the darkenss of the world.  The president offers “humor and positive vision” and his relection takes a giant step forward.  It would seem if we are truly to reclaim the country and the culture for light and goodness, it is incumbent upon us to be upbeat, positive and joyful.

But as Christians we are under very real attack.  It is so easy to become defensive; to wall ourselves off from the world and to hunker down.  It is so easy to focus on the negative – to be horrified at the “celebration of abortion” and be condemning of the scandal.  Such may comfort us, but it does not help the world, our country or our culture.  Jesus may have said His yoke was light, but it is still a yoke, and the easy path is not the Christian path.  Since it is time to decide what to give up for Lent, perhaps we should decide to give up negativity.  Perhaps as we prepare to celebrate God’s ultimate victory we should give up frowning and complaining and act as the victors we already are.

James tells us to approach hard times with joy, for such produces perfection, “lacking in nothing.”  And so we are called by scripture itself to be positive, even in the hardest of times.  The book of Nehemiah tells us, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Being upbeat and joyful is where we will find the resources we need to make it through this difficult times.  The psalmist prays to God to make even his broken bones rejoice.  In Proverbs we learn:

A joyful heart is good medicine,
But a broken spirit dries up the bones.

But how do we find this joy when things are so dark?  The psalmist tells us it is by being in God’s presence:

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that joy is found, even in injustice, by an eternal, long term perspective.  And in Acts we find that joy goes hand-in-hand with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

I think it is safe to conclude that not only will being upbeat and joyful help us help the world, but it is a necessary outcome of our close relationship with the Lord.

This year for Lent I think we should give up playing defense and start to play offense.  But not the sort of militaristic offense you see in football or military action – rather an offense of positivity and life, marked by joy.  I think this would be a great Lenten theme song.

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