Sunday thoughts: March

By Monsignor John Devine

The thought of Lent fills me with dread. Coping with winter weather is bad enough. I need cheering up rather than extra layers of austerity. Past experience tells me that my resolutions at the beginning of Lent go the way of all good intentions. I don’t live up to them. They are slowly eroded.

I choose to give up alcohol but very soon I identify occasions when it would be inappropriate for me not to drink. I decide not to listen to the car radio but then make an exception for news bulletins. I give up cake until someone offers me some for a birthday. It would be uncharitable of me to refuse. Two weeks into Lent and I have forgotten it is a special time at all. When Holy Week arrives, I am the same old mediocre me as I was on Ash Wednesday.

Maybe my understanding of Lent as a self-improvement programme is deficient. Maybe Lent's precise purpose is to convince me that self-discipline is futile. That will never get me to heaven. Should I try a different tack this year? Maybe Alcoholics Anonymous has a point. I should appeal to a 'higher power'. And so I have resolved to acknowledge Lent as a special time of preparation for Easter. I will accept it as a grace-filled time, a gift to be received rather than an ordeal to be endured. I am not in the driving seat, even for Lent. I will avoid the urge to 'try harder' and instead see Lent as a time of waiting. I won't pray more but will try to be more attentive. I will get the Lord do the heavy lifting. I will go with the flow and maybe even enjoy it.