Preparing for Lent

Here we are. Mardi Gras. Shrove Tuesday. The eve of Lent, so to speak.

The question may arise: “What shall I do for Lent?” Typically, it becomes a question of what enjoyable thing we will give up, or what worthy thing we will add to our lives during Lent. Giving something up, or adding something on, can be a very good thing to do. It reminds us that there is something different about this season, something which calls forth a change from within us.

But what change? What is the goal of Lent? What is its purpose? What can help us live this season fruitfully?

There are many helpful resources out there that can assist us in living Lent well. Most parishes will offer one or more of these resources, or recommend others. Many of us have our own Lenten traditions in place. But what is Lent all about? Getting a clearer sense of this can assist us in choosing traditions and practices that will help us live in harmony with the season, and open ourselves to what the Holy Spirit wishes to do in us and through us during this time.  Continue reading “Preparing for Lent”

Don’t Worry, Be Happy?

Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Matthew 6:24-34

Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note-for-note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry, you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy Don’t worry, be happy now

– from the Bobby McFerrin song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Or, how about this?

When you feel sad, or under a curse
Your life is bad, your prospects are worse
Your wife is sighing, crying,
And your olive tree is dying,
Temples are graying, and teeth are decaying
And creditors weighing your purse…
Your mood and your robe
Are both a deep blue
You’d bet that Job
Had nothing on you…
Don’t forget that when you get to
Heaven you’ll be blessed..
Yes, it’s all for the best…

– from the song All For The Best, Godspell

So. As we used to say in the Eighties, how does that make you feel?   Continue reading “Don’t Worry, Be Happy?”

Feed the Birds

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time: Mark 9:41-50

Feast of St. Polycarp

“Jesus said to his disciples: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” Mark 9:41

I admit it.

I have been on a Mary Poppins kick since I discovered that quote with which I opened my last post. Even though I saw many Disney movies as a child, I had never seen Mary Poppins. As a child, my special interests were so focused that, unless a movie appeared to offer me at least one of them, I wasn’t interested. Doctor Doolittle passed muster for me then – the Rex Harrison film –  with all those animals he talked to.  Apparently, Mary Poppins didn’t pass (in spite of the penguins, horses, fox and hounds, and dog).  Continue reading “Feed the Birds”

Be Perfect?

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (A): Matthew 5:38-48

I’m practically perfect from head to toe
If I had a fault it would never dare to show
I’m so practically perfect
In every way

Both prim and proper and never too stern
Well-educated yet willing to learn
I’m clean and honest, my manner refined
And I wear shoes of the sensible kind

I suffer no nonsense and whilst I remain
There’s nothing else I feel I need explain

I’m practically perfect in every way
Practically perfect, that’s my forte
Uncanny nannies are hard to find
Unique, yet meek, unspeakably kind

I’m practically perfect, not slightly soiled
Running like an engine that’s just been freshly oiled
I’m so practically perfect
In every way

– From the song “Practically Perfect”, Mary Poppins: The Musical

Does this song remind you of anyone you know? I couldn’t help but think of a couple of nuns who taught me in school. Even if this wasn’t their conscious intent, I could easily imagine either of them singing this song with a straight face. They certainly gave me that impression. But not only nuns, of course. I’ve met other people who seemed to give off an aura of “practically perfect”. Might this song apply to you in some way? I confess that I have often felt that I should be something like this – or very close to it – and that I would be a failure as a human being if I wasn’t like this. This image of “practically perfect” has dominated the imaginations of many people, causing them to see themselves as “not good enough”, no matter what they did. People who are literal-minded, or prone to obsessive-compulsive behavior, can be especially vulnerable to seeing this image of perfection as what it means to be a good human being. They suffer greatly from never being able to attain such perfection in their lives, and can see themselves as failures because of it. Sadly, other, ‘healthier’ people sometimes confirm this by their attitudes toward those who have psychological challenges and thus can’t appear to be “practically perfect”.  Continue reading “Be Perfect?”

Babel and the Cross

Friday of the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

(A comment on this photo: This is the main entrance to the parish office of Our Lady Of The Snows in Dexter, Maine. As you can see, the parish is aptly named!)

Today’s Mass readings – the story of the Tower of Babel and Jesus’ teaching on the necessity of denying ourselves, taking up our cross each day and following him – present certain challenges to us who hear or read them today. First of all, these readings seem, at first glance, to have little to do with one another. Secondly, it is all too easy for many people to simply dismiss any readings from the early chapters of Genesis as ancient myths, impossible to square with what paleontology and archaeology teach us about the origins of humanity and civilization, and therefore irrelevant to us today. If we take a longer look, however, we may find that these two readings have a genuine connection. Moreover, stories like that of the Tower of Babel can be surprisingly relevant to our own day. Keep in mind that the book of Genesis does not intend to give us information about archaeology. It intends to diagnose what has gone wrong with humanity, and what God is doing about it.   Continue reading “Babel and the Cross”