Column: Don’t be fooled into ignoring Lent

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.
Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Some issues of The Leaven are jampacked with breaking news. This definitely is one of them. In case you’ve missed these important items in today’s paper, don’t forget to check out the following four articles:

• With the new Roman Missal coming into use in Advent of this year, Saturday evening Masses will no longer be celebrated in the archdiocese.

• The archdiocesan school office has just announced that, in an effort to conserve energy and resources, our students will be having a four-day school week, to be in place by the 2012-2013 school year. Schools will begin preparing for the transition this coming fall.

• The Leaven will continue its current publication schedule, but will double in size, to 32 pages each issue (like the special issue that was done for “A Day in the Life of the Archdiocese” last December).

• Starting on Easter Sunday 2012 (April 8) archdiocesan parishes will no longer accept cash or checks in the collection. Donations will all be done online or by swiping either a credit or a debit card in hand-held machines carried by the ushers.

OK, before you start flooding the archdiocesan church offices or your parishes with phone calls — I hope it’s not already too late — please, please, please note the date that this issue is published: April 1. And, if you were taken in by any of those four “news stories” above, happy April Fools’ Day! I hope that you can forgive me for pulling your leg; I just couldn’t resist.

By the way, the exact origin of April Fools’ Day is not known with any certainty, but my favorite explanation comes from the “Encyclopedia of Religion,” which states that the pranks that are played this day “are related to the arrival of spring when nature ‘fools’ mankind with fickle weather.” (Isn’t that the truth, especially here in Kansas this year.)

On a little more serious note, here’s a story worth pondering:

Apparently, there was once an atheist who was quite angry over all the attention given to the Easter and Passover holidays. He decided to contact a lawyer about this discrimination suffered by atheists. Why, he reasoned, should Christians and Jews have all these holidays, while atheists had none?

A young, cocky lawyer eagerly jumped on the issue. The case eventually came before a seasoned judge who, after listening to the passionate presentation by the attorney, promptly banged down his gavel and said, “Case dismissed!”

The lawyer stood up and sputtered, “Your Honor, how can you dismiss this case? Surely, you can see that the Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances. And the Jews, in addition to Passover, have Yom Kippur and Hanukkah! My client and his fellow atheists, however, have no such holidays!”

The judge leaned back in his chair and said, “Obviously, your client is too confused to know about or, for that matter, even celebrate the atheists’ holiday.”

The lawyer objected, “We are unaware of any such holiday for atheists. Just when, Your Honor, might it be?”

The judge smiled and said, “Why, it comes every year at the same time — April 1!”

While I’m not sure of this judge’s legal expertise, he was definitely on solid biblical ground. He might have had the following verse in mind: “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’” (Ps 53:1). Honestly, though, don’t even we believers sometimes live this way?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record: How are you doing with your Lenten resolutions? Did you even bother to come up with any? Have these days since Ash Wednesday been any different from the days that came before it? Are you praying more, fasting from something, and actively serving the needs of others? Or is it pretty much business as usual?

We’d be foolish not to use these days of Lent well. We’re just kidding ourselves if we think that we’re perfect just as we are. We’re silly if we believe that we have nothing more to learn about our faith or that faith has nothing to do with life outside the church building. And we’re awfully mistaken if we think that we can change our lives for the better without the guidance and help of God and a supportive community.

Granted, this Lenten season is about half over. Who cares? It’s never too late to start praying, fasting and almsgiving. After all, half a Lent is better than none.

And you know, the more that I think about it, maybe April 1 is actually a Christian holiday. After all, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes: “We are fools for the sake of Christ” (4:10).

In the eyes of more practical, worldly people, it is “foolish” to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, forgive those who trespass against us, welcome strangers and care for the poor.

But in the eyes of God, these are precisely the things that bring his healing and hope to the world and actually make life worth living.

No fooling!

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