by Ken Rolheiser
Lent is always something new

Why is Lent the best time of the year for you to run a marathon?
Cause that’s when you fast.

“Dad, what are you giving up for Lent?” 
"I’m going to give up liquor.”
Later at the ballgame, Dad ordered a beer. "Hey, I thought you were giving up liquor!"
"Hard liquor, son. I'm giving up hard liquor. This is just a beer."
"Well then, I'm giving up hard candy," the boy replied.

When you have lived through as many Lents as I have you tend to ask: what do I need this Lent besides better jokes?

The basics – fast, pray and give to charity. OK. Then? Do what you can to help your family and others to spiritual life. Sunday Mass, prayer, faith instructions, etc. But what do I do after that?

There is always something new to learn during Lent. This year I researched Shrove Tuesday. I thought I knew it. That’s Pancake Tuesday. That’s when people fasting during Lent would use up the lard by deep frying pancakes, because back then you had to avoid meat related products.

And, of course, we all know about Mardi Gras parties. Have a big celebration before the belt-tightening fast. A good celebration is great, and God can bless us through it. 

Then I discovered that the “Shrove “ part had to do with confession, absolution, and penance in preparation for Lent. Aha! That was something new. Some of our traditions have this process later in Lent in preparation for Easter. In our day a sense of sin and repentance is something we need to work on all year. 

The “something new” during Lent always has a connection to Spring and new life. Nothing is more spiritual than that! Nothing more joyous than shedding the ice and snow and seeing new lambs and colts. With new life, hope is reborn.

Pope Francis proposed that, “even if the entire world were to preach against hope, if it were to say that the future will only bring dark clouds, the Christian knows that, in that same future, there is Christ’s return. …there is the Merciful Jesus.” It is enough so we can trust and not curse life. 

Some of us are at the age when the “check engine” light is starting to flash on occasion. Lent is the time to re-read the owner’s manual and to tune our engines once more. Clean the filters and make things right again for the journey.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Hebrews 10:22). “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Psalm 51:10).

Then, and this is for all of us, we need do what we need to do during Lent, and to do it cheerfully. Here’s a thought I like to share. 
“It was only a sunny smile, 
and little it cost in the giving, 
but like morning light 
it scattered the night 
and made the day worth living.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald 

(528 words)