Today is Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday or "Fat Tuesday". In some places it is a day of reckless abandon, of letting go in a celebration anticipating the coming of Lent, of one last chance to get it all in before the door shuts. You don't have to go to New Orleans or Rio or some exotic place to celebrate. In fact, I just splurged at lunch by having a delicious apple dumpling (with ice cream) following my sandwich. I hope my doctor doesn't read today's post!
Tomorrow we heed the words of the prophet Joel and proclaim a fast, call the assembly, renew and revise our journey through sacrifice and charity. We will embrace a more Christ-like way of life, pay homage to the Lord with a generous spirit, share our giftedness with others, especially those in most need. We will sacrifice, give alms, do more, pray, grow in the Spirit, and trust in the love of God for us. We will do so in gratitude for the blessings received.
This morning's first reading is from Sirach, and we find great encouragement to do the things that are so often done in Lent with joy and trust. "Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means. For the LORD is one who always repays, and he will give back to you sevenfold." Our Lenten actions and sacrifices express our awareness of how blessed we are.
I found the next line interesting, though. Sirach continues: "But offer no bribes, these he does not accept! Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion. For he is a God of justice, who knows no favorites." Is there an ulterior purpose to our sacrifice? Do I sacrifice so that I can lose weight or get in shape? Do I go the extra mile so that God can take notice and reward my efforts? Can my extra prayers balance my ledger in a good way? I think that the intentions of my actions speak louder than the actions themselves, and that my actions need only be an expression of my gratitude for blessings already received. Lent will be simpler. My sacrifice will be easier. And everything that I have "given up" for the sake of Christ Jesus and the Gospel will be returned to me a hundred fold. Happy LENT!