Wednesday, March 05, 2014

No Amount of Ashes…

"The icon of the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee shows both men in the manner in which they enter the temple to pray. The Pharisee goes to a very prominent place where others will see him. The positions of his hands indicate that he is addressing God by speaking of his stature and accomplishments. In contrast, the Publican enters and remains in a low place, far from the holiest parts of the temple. His posture shows his openness to God, his humility, and his petition for mercy.

The icon also shows the state of both men as they leave the temple. Following the words of Christ in Luke 18:14, the Publican has now been exalted in the kingdom of God because of his humility. He leaves the temple forgiven, and he shows that he remains open to the will of God. In contrast, the Pharisee leaves the temple unjustified, still in need of forgiveness. Because of his pride and lack of repentance, he will be humbled before God, the One who knows the condition of each person’s soul and who will offer the gift of salvation to those who come to Him in true repentance." - Read more here.

Remember, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Ions ago, fasting meant "fasting" --- they literally starved themselves to honor God. Today, we're giving up a bit of a guilty pleasure here and there, like holding off on chocolate or not indulging on read meat for 40 days. Most people of trinity based religions observe Lent, but never truly observe the meaning. Fasting is fine and giving up something you love is a truly difficult thing to do, but are you repenting and examining your lives in the process? That's what it's all about. It's actually more important to seek repentance, to humble yourself and reevaluate your way of life --- not just giving up a guilty pleasure for 40 days.

I read this interesting little story online that said, some years ago a father had urged his children to move beyond giving up candy to giving up some habit of sin that marked their lives. About halfway through Lent he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. One of his young sons had promised to give up fighting with his brothers and sisters during Lent. When his father asked him how it was going, the boy replied, "I'm doing pretty good, Dad—but boy, I can't wait until Easter!" That response indicates that this boy had only partly understood the purpose of Lenten "giving up." Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ. For catechumens, Lent is a period intended to bring their initial conversion to completion.

You got it all wrong!
If your "sacrifice" is not a sin, then why are you choosing to use it for your Lenten promise? The bulk of people who participate in Lent are never in church and from my experience, are shallow, hot-tempered, arrogant people who want others to know "publicly" how "good" they are by observing Lent. Ah, even the Pharisee is familiar with this trick.  They are in no way humble or sincere -- the sacrifice is self-gratification of knowing they are strong enough to hold off on some sort of addiction.

One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is this: "When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on the street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets will reward you." ~ Matthew 6:6

Here's my point: don't be a shitty person all the time and give up your chocolate just to observe Lent, and not observe being a good person to other people. (And yes I will use colorful language in this paragraph.) I'm so tired of all of these "righteous religious" people "praying in public", announcing their big (very small) sacrifice to God and then just being an all around shitty person the entire 40 days…and beyond.  Try giving up being a complete asshat. Try doing something for others instead of trying to suck up every bit of energy from those around you. Try not lashing out because you're frustrated with your life. Try giving up being selfish and nasty. Try giving up being a racist, a bigot, a cherry picking scripture tosser to those you don't approve of. Try looking forward to giving up the one thing you gave up for Lent --- for good! That's the true meaning of Lent. If you can't wait until Lent is over, then maybe you shouldn't observe it at all. /end rant

We always have room for improvement. For me, personally, I started changing my responses to bad situations. Instead of blowing my lid (like I did in the above paragraph), I now actually sit on it for a few hours and either respond peacefully or not at all. I don't retaliate against an offense anymore. I may speak my mind, but not in a vicious way, (like I did in the above paragraph). But you get my point. I think the best way to observe Lent is by observing your character. When you look into the mirror, don't look at yourself, look at your character. Who do you see? Do they need improvement? More patience? More understanding? More room for error? More forgiveness? More tolerance? More love? I know mine did which is why I have to stay close to God in prayer and meditation and have my character reflect my public observance for God. Don't wear your ashes without changing, or…just don't get ashes this year if you're just not ready to make a longer commitment.

Am I right or am I right?
"Love does not demand its own way." ~Corinthians 
 See? I'm not perfect either.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!