Starting Point
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Issue Date:  March 18, 2005

Starting Point


It’s Lent again, and like Jesus, I’ll have to die -- at least a little -- to understand the resurrection. I’ve picked my poisons; those little deaths that hurt but not that much.

Like most people I’m careful with my Lenten sacrifices. I’ll give up a certain type of meat, but not all meat. I’ll cut back on food, but not too much. I’ll give some money away, but not so much that I can’t buy a new pair of walking shoes. And I’ll pray more, but I won’t get carried away.

I’ve carefully chosen a Lent that follows the ancient practices of prayer, fasting and the giving of alms, but doesn’t go overboard.

I do worry a little about the day I won’t be able to pick and choose the sacrifices I’ll make. I know it’s a luxury to choose to sacrifice. Millions of people are forced by poverty or bad government policies or hatred to go hungry every day. Theirs is not a choice to delay eating as is most of my fasting. There are others who will never go to school because they can’t afford the shoes that are required for school attendance. There is no choosing here, only the burden of never having enough with no way out.

Some people have suffered so much or been given so much that God is not an option. They have learned either that God is impotent or that God is irrelevant; and those of us who still believe in God haven’t done much to help them believe otherwise.

Still, it is Lent again and I have been signed with the ashes of death, the not so subtle reminder that everything passes, including our privileges and our burdens. I’m on the way to Easter where Christ has already gone ahead of me. He promises to meet me on the other side of all the little deaths I choose and the single certain death I would never choose but must surely embrace one day. I hope I am equal to that real Lent and if not, that Christ’s mercy is stronger than the careful way I have lived my baptism.

Fr. George Szews is a campus minister in Eau Claire, Wis.

National Catholic Reporter, March 18, 2005

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