reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Yep, what if and extend this: what of we took God and faith as seriously as all our secular pursuits
What if we took Lent as seriously as we do Mardi Gras?
I wonder how different things would be in New Orleans if more people took Lent and Easter as seriously as they do Carnival season and Mardi Gras.
What if all that time, money and personal sacrifices invested in the revelry leading up to Fat Tuesday were offered as willingly in the self-denial, moderation, spiritual discipline and penitential works that come after Ash Wednesday?
For starters, people already would have Wednesday, Feb. 26, marked on their calendars as the first day of Lent with a big circle on next April 12 for Easter 2020.
For those 40 days in between, they would enthusiastically focus not only on abstinence and fasting but also prayers and charitable works. They would not, however, become too obsessed in the penitence itself, but realize that the penitence is in preparation for celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians seek a change of heart during Lent in their relationship with God, not just good works to boast of.
For almost six weeks, they would live in wonderful anticipation of celebrating the day that changed everything.
They would have friends and work colleagues constantly reminding them of the season and how much joy they would get out of participating more. The invitations would be impossible to avoid and hard to resist.
They would arrange things so they could take time off from work to do some service in their community, spend time with their families and neighbors or contemplate God’s grace and mercy. They would wonder how many friends and relatives were coming from out of town to help them celebrate.
They would go out in neighborhoods a day or two early to stake out the places where they and their friends would be picking up trash and pulling Mardi Gras beads from the catch basins.
The mayor would have to issue a warning about people bringing their ladders ahead of time to paint and fix up houses owned by the poor and elderly.
Police would shut down streets and even portions of the Pontchartrain Expressway to make sure that volunteers could get where they were needed as efficiently as possible. Sometimes the cops would get off their motorcycles and dance to entertain those waiting for the caravan to pass.
Local TV stations would offer smartphone apps to help us find the best time to volunteer at homeless shelters or donate to food pantries and blood banks. NOLA.com would have reporters all over the place for Holy Week events and would go on Facebook Live to share the Good Friday and Easter sermons.
People would ponder what it means to “love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and then what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
They might bookmark some Bible verses on Ash Wednesday, like Joel 2:12: “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." Or maybe a good reminder in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
They would focus during the time of abstinence on how Jesus has spent 40 days fasting and battling Satan in the desert to prepare for a ministry that would eventually take him to the cross to defeat sin and death.
Cold and rainy weather would not keep them from participating in church gatherings, especially during Holy Week. Traffic jams would be endured just to get close enough to walk to crowds. They would do everything they could to be a part of the worship, even if the church had moved the services an hour or two earlier to escape severe weather.
And on Easter, they might read from Mark 16: "And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.'"
They might repeat, "He is risen! He is risen, indeed!"
They would already be thinking about, planning for and anticipating the next Lenten season.
Tim Morris is a columnist on the Latitude team at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Latitude is a place to share opinions about the challenges facing Louisiana. Follow @LatitudeNOLA on Facebook and Twitter. Write to Tim at email@example.com.