By Barb Arland-Fye
My husband Steve was mixing cornbread batter for dinner when I called to him from the family room to read and reflect on the Scriptures of the day. “Can it wait?” he asked. Of course it could, but I wanted to get that Lenten to-do item off my list!
As I write this, verses from the March 5 Gospel reading (Luke 18:9-14) echo in my ears: “The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest and adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income….’”
Nearly five weeks into Lent, I feel like I’m walking the path of a Pharisee! It’s so much easier to follow the letter of the law than to embrace the heart of the law (in this case, the prayer, fasting and almsgiving of Lenten requirements).
Steve and I began this Lenten journey committed to reading the daily Scriptures together and reflecting on their meaning. The goal seemed realistic when we agreed to it — on vacation. In the weeks since we returned home, we’ve discovered that waiting until the end of the day to read and reflect on Scriptures increases the temptation to skip it. We did give in to temptation one night, for which Steve has forgiven us. He figured that since we honored another Lenten commitment that evening, God would understand.
Even on the nights when our enthusiasm for Scripture reading and reflection falls short, the Holy Spirit’s guidance allows us to glean insights about what it means to be people of faith. God desires a return gift of love which we can only give through the way we treat all of creation.
God makes clear in the readings that the law is empty without the giving of self. In Mark’s Gospel (12:28-34), the Scribe responds to Jesus’ explanation of the first of all commandments by observing that “to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Our participation in weekly Stations of the Cross/Soup Supper is another way Steve and I observe Lent together. I’ve got to confess, though, that I take advantage of my husband’s generous spirit in this Lenten tradition. When it was my committee’s turn to prepare soup supper, Steve (who’s not even a member of my Liturgy committee!) showed up with soup and muffins. He and other committee members held down the kitchen until I arrived from the office, just minutes before Stations of the Cross began in our parish.
Being busy and productive is etched in my DNA, which makes another aspect of my Lenten journey even more crucial: one hour a week in eucharistic adoration with Liturgy of the Hours. While I pray morning and evening prayer every day of the week, time spent just “resting” in God is rare. Sitting still and being present to God requires a different sort of discipline for me. I see it as letting go.
Last Saturday’s holy hour served as a check-up on my growth this Lenten season. It was as if I could hear God saying, “Barb, don’t be so hard on yourself! This isn’t a road race; I’m not grading you on an exam or expecting you to be perfect. I want you to grow in honesty toward yourself and in the generosity of your love toward others.”
So, how is your Lenten journey going?
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)