Column: Looking for a bargain-basement God?

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

Wow, I’ve been indulging in way too much sorbet this Lent.

No, that’s not a typo. I’m not referring to sherbet, that delightfully light and frozen dessert. I’m talking about rationalization, hairsplitting, corner-cutting behavior. It always seems to happen about two weeks into Lent, when it dawns on me how tough some of the disciplines I’ve undertaken really are. Let me give you some examples:

Last Saturday night I was out having pizza, and the KU-Texas game
was being shown on one of the big screen TVs. I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes away from it . . . and I’d already gawked at the end of the North Carolina-Duke battle. Earlier that day, I watched a TV program that I’d recorded on the DVR. So, what’s the big deal? Well, one of my Lenten resolutions is to watch one hour of TV a day. Period. Because I’d already used up that time with the taped program, I should not have been watching any basketball. And that’s when the surebuts started.

Inside my head was this conversa- tion: Hey, Mark, didn’t you say just one hour of TV a day during Lent?

Well, sure . . . but “peeking regu- larly” at a basketball game is not really “watching” TV, is it? And, after all, I meant that one hour to apply to what I watched at home, not when something “happened” to be on TV somewhere else, like at a restaurant.

A day later, my mind said: Hey, Mark, what are you doing with that bunch of grapes in your hand? Didn’t you say that you weren’t going to eat in between meals?

Well, sure . . . but I meant that I wasn’t going to eat unhealthy snacks. Obviously, grapes (and raisins and nuts and air-popped popcorn) don’t count.

Later, my mind said: Hey, Mark, why are you wasting time with that game on your computer? Didn’t you say that you were going to make time to pray more?

Well, sure . . . but I need to relax my mind for an hour or so first before I can give God the proper attention that those 15 minutes of prayer demand.

Days later, my mind said: Hey, Mark, you skipped a meal at Wendy’s, shouldn’t that money go into your Rice Bowl?

Well, sure . . . but I didn’t mean that I’d put the whole combo meal price in. I would have only ordered off the 99-cent menu, so a couple of bucks should cover it.

Finally, my heart said: Hey, Mark, how serious are you about Lent and growing closer to God?

At this point, the words of author Wilbur Rees came rushing at me:

“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Almighty in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”

That quote, more often than not, probably describes the attitude of a lot of us. The massive crowds in church on Ash Wednesday never materialize for Lenten services the very next Wednesday. We seem to want a God that we can control, one made in our image and likeness . . . and not the other way around. We want a God that we can carry around in a paper sack to be brought out when needed. We desire a God of miracles and blessings, not one who asks us to serve and sacrifice. Do we honestly want to be holier? Sure . . . but just not this Lent.

If you’re afflicted with the surebuts, don’t throw in the towel. Instead, grab hold of your Lenten resolutions once again (or compose some now) and recommit yourself to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We can be so much better than we give ourselves credit for: more compassionate, forgiving, generous, helpful, and attentive to others . . . if we just give God an honest chance to work with and through us.

Don’t settle for a bargain-basement God or a cheap Lent. Imagine stand- ing at the gates of heaven one day and asking, “Lord, don’t you want to let me in?”

He might just reply, “Sure . . . but it’s the $3 seats for you!”

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