Throughout the Lenten season, I’ve been posting about different penitential practices, things like fasting, prayer, and alms giving. I came up with this idea for a timely mini-series of posts back in a quaint time when we thought we were getting ready for a Lent similar to the Lents we’ve experienced in the past. It was a simpler time. Then, we received a penance that we didn’t know was coming.
Even as the Coronavirus has become more and more all consuming it the passing weeks and months, I decided to keep going with those posts for a couple of reasons. For one thing, they are still, regardless of circumstances, a good way to do our Lenten penance. They are tried and true, and in a time with so many of our normal approaches being demolished, tried and true seemed even more important in the areas we could find it.
Admittedly, my other reason was much more selfish. I just didn’t want to have another part of my life where I had to deal with COVID 19. As I’ve said before, I’m a teacher. I teach junior high Religion classes at a Catholic school in Phoenix. Well, that’s how I used to describe it. If I’m being accurate now, I have to say I teach junior high Religion classes for a Catholic school in Phoenix. All my teaching and various interactions with teachers, students, and families alike is online. Safe to say, that’s taken some getting used to.
But Lent, Lent I understand! Penance makes sense! Penance may not be easy(in fact, it probably shouldn’t be too easy), but it’s fairly simple. I know I’ve done wrong, but I want to do right, so here are things I’m going to change and sacrifice to help me grow closer to God. It was(and at times still is, if I’m being honest) hard to handle just how abnormal and different this Lent was going to be. No Eucharist? Mass on TV? No fish fry? It’s a lot to have to deal with.
Then, a strange thing started happening. An idea that someone else planted in my head started to really take route. This is the perfect time for this madness and chaos. This is the ultimate penance! In large part, specifically because it isn’t one we got to choose. As great as fasting, prayer, and alms giving are, they are still in our control. We chose them. We told God we’d do this. Now, instead of choosing the penance, we choose how to accept the penance we’re given. Christians often talk a good game about our trust in God and of uniting our sufferings to the Cross. So here we are, have we lived it? If not, it still isn’t too late. This posts on Good Friday. Lent is over and done. Penance, however, isn’t. Yes, Lent is a season specifically focused on penance, but our whole lives should involve us trying to improve, to get closer to God, so accept this penance for what it is, a time of difficulty and suffering that we don’t want, but that can still get us to where we want to be.
Have a blessed and safe Easter!