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March 7, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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March 7, 1998

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Page I0 March 7, 1998 Celebrating Lent offers one opportu- tertainment, over- nity to walk with Jesus through the use of television rough road that leads to new life. The and pleasure, un- path to that new life includes fasting, kind thoughts prayer and helping each other, and words and re. The Ash Wednesday rite of blessing venge. In some and distribution of ashes begins the sea- cases, these hu- son of Lent. The rite of placing ashes on man difficulties the foreheads speak directly to the re- are fixed and natu- cipient "Memento, homo ... quia pulvis ralized as a sort of es et in pulverem reverteris" meaning, second nature and "Remember you're dust and you shall exercise great con- return to dust." (Gen 3:19). Or the alter- trol. They act like Cliff.S][" native rite following the revisions of the "little crosses" of Father Wilfred Vatican II: "Repent and believe in the life that inhibit Okorochukwu Gospel" (Mk 1:15); a reminder for corn- personal joy. mitment in the gospel message of Christ They may defile individual character and which can set one free. These rites intro- rob one of personal peace by imposing duce the ecclesiological significance of complex impulses that diminish the good Lent that can help one to turn to God. sense of self. Who would not want to be People may have in their generations freed from these impediments? Freedom seen clearly with their own eyes one who is possible through Jesus by the practice is dead and has returned to "dust." Re- of prayer and "fasting. turn to dust and ash is an ultimate real- Lenten prayer, fast and abstinence are iv/that draws support from the environ- configured to work on the human will to ment manifested in the cycle of birth, exercise control that balances sense-de- growth and decline. Lent, therefore, is sires. Lenten fast upgrades the human a journey of personal reconciliation with senses to resist unwanted practice by act- God that rejects certain personal prac- ing on the inner senses as moderators of tices that make one uncomfortable with attractions that are embarrassing. They God and with people in the effort to help to regulate the lower sense appe- be free. These insecurities may include tites by creating in the mind, the reason overeating, overdrinking, excess en- for the use of natural things. Fasting and abstinence create respect for the proper use of things and allow one to be master of the self through self-discipline. Fasdng is not eating at all. It is a disci- pline in the use of food and pleasurable things based on how much one actually needs such to live. Surely, there is joy in "all one can eat or drink or use" but one takes care to avoid certain foods and plea- sure that disfigure personal health and eats or uses what is needed and avoids what is not. Lenten fast and abstinence are not dieting for bodily health or for athletic training. Rather they are tools that help one to see the self better and rediscover the spiritual inheritance promised by GOd in the scriptures. They are paths to better and happy life. Fasting is not a self-pun- ishment but something chosen to rise to GOd and to share in the kingdom of heaven. Fasting overcomes insensitivity. Fasting (moderation) is an antidote that reins gluttony and other unwanted abuse. Abstinence from television and certain flesh products are among the recom- mended disciplines in Lent. Fast and ab- stinence may cause a feeling of sadness at first, but it is a means to overcome unwanted habits. Habits are like the rule of reciprocity. What one gives back is a reflection of what one might receive. Whatever one frowns on in turn looks sourly upon the individual and whatever is smiled upon a kind of companion. When all is said and done, one izes that one is made for God each other. Ash Wednesday signals a practice of personal daily, sistent, repeated prayer journey to Then by means of moderation m the of food and things, one the effort to remove from all that are not necessary which are stacles to a happy personal or peace. With other Lenten resources of the sacraments of and holy Communion, one comeS make a new commitment to God and family and feels that one is the over one's unwanted practices that ously exercised control. By a pentance and attrition in the rament of forgiveness, one inner peace and life that has worth in God's eyes. Lord's forgiveness is among the "celebrations" in Lent offered ally sometimes face to face to who ask for the sacrament with tion. Thus Lent can help one level of completeness one has wanted. Father Wdfred Okorochkwu is the Good Shepherd Church in Fordyce Cross Church in Sheridan. Ay ung couple I've come to know in anhattan have taught me a lot about the perils and opportunities of working on Wall Street. I'll have the honor of celebrating their marriage in a couple of weeks at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, so we were talking over plans at dinner re- cendy. Conversation moved to their jobs, and the financial and spiritual conse- quences of surviving in the economic cen- mr of the universe. Let me sum up the gist of their frustra- tion: 'q'he difficulty for most of us is the imbalance of giving and getting. We give a lot to get financial rewards -- but we find little time to express our care for things other than banking a fat paycheck. Sure, we can and do open our wallets for various causes, but many of us want to do more. We need a 'Wall Street Really Cares' campaign!" My friends have found out what many people do in the course of a lifetime: What we get will be de- termined by what we give. We dis- cover that there are powerful re. wards for striking a balance between giving and getting. And that, simply put, the best way to receive the things that really co mt is to be gen- Om Casm erous. Fr. Thomas]. We often see this in educationMcSweeney and in work. The more intensely we are involved, the more satisfaction and pleasure we get from our insights and solutions. To paraphrase Edison: no perspiration, no inspiration. It is also tzue in religious experiences. For example, the more we bring to wor- ship in God's "house" -- the more we get from iL If we regard the whole service as a performance laid on for our special en- tertainment, we may find ourselves criti- cizing the organist and music, finding fault with the preacher. Going to church has become the result of habit and rou- tine, part of the time-table into which we have divided the week. Rather than viewing church as a place you go to get grace to help you through the week, imagine church as a place you bring your grace, that is, the good you have drawn from your everyday encoun- ters with reality. Then if you are open, ready to receive GOd, you find that any- thing can happen --- more, perhaps, than you ever imagined. The most common experience of the balance of giving and getting occurs in our personal relationships. One of the basic principles in the dynamics man interaction is that we tend to our reflection in other people. If we are cross and irritable and ! tempered, we will probably find people equally unpleasant. If we are c cal and fault-finding, the chances are1 we will find other people the are suspicious and distrustful, the hood is that others will be so to us. Conversely, if we wish others to us, we must first love them. who would have friends must show selves to be friendly. When it comes to striking a between giving and getting in tionships, you might recall that it cause God believes and delights in and loves you, that you can believe love Him. Giving positively negatively always makes one helluV ! ference in what we get in return. Guardini answers the question, 'Why do people really go to Mass?' Iwron the 1960s, Father Romano Guardlni tea number of inspiring works on the Mass which hold as true for the lit- urgy today as they did for the liturgy of his times. Those works, now collected in "The Essential Guardlni: An Anthology of the Writings of Romano Guardini" (Li- turgical Training Publications, Chicago, 1997), raise a soul-searching question: What exactly is it that prompts people to go to Mass? This question isn't easy to answer be- cause no two motivations are exactly alike. But let's examine a few responses that I'm sure we'd hear. One response stmfly would be this: The Mass makes many people feel closer to God and thus makes them feel good about themselves. Again, although some might not ad- n'fit it, they enjoy the fact that the Mass puts them into contact with friends or helps them start their day right. Many husbands and wives believe that the Mass is an im- portant means of keeping their Iknv ily together. As much as they might have to drag their children to it, they believe that the battle is worthwhile and gives religious "truckline" to their fame. Some people T/IE S/DE would say in re- Ft. Eugene Hemrick sponse to our ques- tion that Mass at- tendance is a serious obligation; they feel they won't get to heaven without it. Some people love the sense of the spiritual found in the Sunday liturgy's ritual, especially when it is celebrated with processions, the blessing with water, fine music, beautiful vestments and a whole- some community spirit. . . Others like a certain priest's homilies, perhaps on social justice issues or making the Bible come alive. For some, the Mass affords an oppor- tunity to pour personal troubles out to God, to pray for a favor or to regain a sense of balance and focus in life. If we fit into any of these categories, however, Father Guardiniwould challenge us to ask whether we are using the Mass solely for our own ego needs. If so, he would encourage us to seriously rethink those needs in order fully to experience the liturgy as it is intended. Here is a thought-provoking obser- vation that Father Guardini offers on the Mass: Seldom is the word "I" found in it. This indicates that the Mass aims to help us realize we are part of God's bigger world, which stretches far beyond our little circle of friends, family, personal needs or even our need to be alone with God. In the Mass, we are connected with the saints of all ages and with God's of salvation. The liturgy of the MaSS vites us to leave our own time zone, own little world, and to enter into bigger picture. Although we may reside in a parish at this given moment in transcend it when we unite the transcendent Jesus. A main going to Mass, therefore, should enter God's world, not to maintain world. The purpose of the Mass is to out of ourselves toward GOd. Of the result also will be that we love serve others better than ever before. Father Guardini is quick to say all of this is not easy. Human beings ] "a tendency to spiritual elusiveness." One reason I enjoy reading Guardini's works is because he so easy to see why exclusiveness and needs miss the real point of the