by Father Mark Goldasich
One of the consequences of the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving is unexpected blessings.
As you know, I’m watching just one hour of TV a day during Lent. I’ve done very well with that, with the exception of a few “peeks” at March Madness games that “might” be on TVs where I “happen” to be. (OK, have I qualified that enough?)
Seriously, when I’ve been home at the rectory, I’ve actually watched less than one hour, because I zip through the commercials of the shows that I’ve recorded. Not seeing ads for what is the latest new-and-improved item has made me quite content with what I have. That’s one benefit I’ve seen this Lent.
The other benefit, though, is much more significant. Because I have just that one hour, it leaves no time for TV news. Somehow, not having that daily — or even more frequent — dose of reporting on fires, politicians’ posturing, commentary on the posturing, murders, assaults, accidents, etc., has given me a much calmer spirit. Taking a break from the endless drone of tragedy and what is often “non-news” is refreshing.
Fasting from this steady diet of misery and negativity has given me a wider — and much more accurate — perspective. In short, I’m rediscovering the virtue of hope. The following story shows some of what hope can do:
There was once a young girl named Mollie, who was hospitalized after be- ing hit by a car. Mollie’s legs had been badly broken and, though the doctors performed several surgeries, the little girl faced a strong possibility that she would never walk again.
She became depressed, uncooperative, and cried a great deal. She only seemed to perk up when the morning mail arrived. Most of her gifts were books, games, or stuffed animals — all appropriate items for a bedridden child.
One day, though, a different sort of gift came, this one from an aunt far away. When Mollie tore open the package, she found a pair of shiny, black patent-leather shoes inside. The nurses in the room mumbled something about “people who don’t use their heads,” but Mollie didn’t seem to hear them. She was too busy putting her hands in the shoes and “walking” them up and down her blanket.
From that day on, her attitude changed. She began cooperating with the nursing staff, and soon she was in therapy. Eventually, Mollie left the hospital, walking on her own and wear- ing her shiny new shoes. (Adapted from “The Best News of All,” found in Medard Laz’s “Love Adds a Little Chocolate.”)
Yes, it’s amazing what hope can do: It transformed little Mollie’s world. What seemed bleak became manageable; what looked impossible became possible.
Many folks lately appear paralyzed by all of the problems in our world — both real and imaginary. I would prescribe a shot of hope. Start first by say- ing that “Act of Hope” that you probably learned as a kid. Remember it? “O my God, trusting in your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.”
Ask yourself these questions: Do I trust in God’s infinite goodness? Do I believe in God’s promises? Which attitudes or sins in my life smother hope — despair, rash judgment, prejudice, anger, inflexibility? Do I regularly ask for the help of God’s grace? All too often, we Christians forget that we’re to be a people of hope, messengers of the good news, a light shining brightly in the gloom.
No, we don’t ever want to ignore the suffering in the world — or right in our own backyard — but we’re convinced that those hurts are never the last word. We’re not just victims of some cruel fate, but people created in the image of a loving and caring God. To those beaten down by life, our faith propels us to be a helping hand, a hopeful word and a generous heart.
Treat yourself to a dose of hope in these final weeks of Lent: At least one day, don’t listen to the news on the TV, radio or computer and don’t watch reality or talk shows. Instead, just live in the world where you live.
You will probably be amazed at the many good and positive things you’ll see in yourself, your family, your neighbor- hood and your parish . . . when you
take the time to see. Let the new life of spring that is erupting everywhere, lift you from the doldrums of despair or resignation, so you can, in turn, lift the spirits of those you encounter.
Hey, what are you waiting for? “Hope” to it!