For those of you lucky enough to not know, "X-Box" refers to an electronic game system my grandsons possess and squabble over whenever they play with it. For eight-year-old Cyrus to offer to forego gaming for the season of Lent seemed tantamount to sacrificing life-giving essentials like air, water and peanut butter. This special spring season and the sacrifice it commemorates have already been steady topics around our mealtime table and, I suspect, the happy-blessed little Catholic school both Cyrus and young John Patrick have attended since their arrival in the Land of Lincoln. And while it's obvious that none of us can come near to matching the kind of supreme sacrifice offered by the Son of God, it doesn't do any of us a bit of harm to give it our best shot. For my spouse, that has meant--for the past million years or so--giving up every single snack food beginning with the letter 'c,' including cookies, chocolate, cake, crackers and chips.
I, on the other hand, have made a major sacrifice by eliminating both beets and turnips from my diet.
Well, actually, I'm gonna try to do my usual no-chocolate thing. But after losing over 40 pounds due to the effect of both super-mystery cancer and the chemotherapy thingee that has followed, I am commanded to eat whatever sounds even remotely good by both my concerned spouse and the pesky nutritionist assigned to pack a few pounds on me. This, of course, is not the worse thing that could happen, especially when there is still chocolate chip ice cream in the world.
But really, why do so many folks take the trouble to give things up this time of year?
According to one source that I found both interesting and convincing, Lent has its origin in the early days of the Church. Converts seeking to become Christian spent several years in study and preparation. Because of the threat of Roman persecution, becoming a Christian was serious business, so the process of preparation was intensive and included a final period of “purification and enlightenment” for the 40 days before baptism at Easter. The rest of the Church began to observe the season of Lent in solidarity with these newest Christians, and eventually it became an opportunity for all Christians to recall and renew the commitment of their baptism.
Giving up something for Lent is really just a form of fasting. We can deprive ourselves of some small pleasure or indulgence and offer that sacrifice up to God. Or we might “give up” a bad habit such as smoking or overeating as a way of positively turning our life back towards what God wants for us.
So maybe your mom was on to something when she had you give up Oreos or your favorite TV show as a child. Even an itty-bitty experience of want, however temporary, can help us to appreciate just how much stuff we really have in our lives. And a small positive change can have a big impact that lasts way beyond the 40 days of Lent.
And hey, just in case it seems like it's all too much, remember Cyrus, who had a solution well at hand when the grandma-lady and I asked him if 40 days without X-Box might be a little more sacrifice than he could manage.
"I've always got the Wii!" he said with a grin.
Kinda sounds like turnips and beets.