Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reflections for the Lenten Season

Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"What do I bring?"

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 (pdf)


     If one were to walk by my classroom of teenagers on a regular basis, I can guarantee the following would be heard: Me: Would anyone like to volunteer to read or act out loud?  My lovely sophomores: “Do we get extra credit?” To say this frustrates me would be an understatement. I give the same speech every time. Something along the lines of – “What about for just the joy of learning? Why do you always need to get something? Can’t you just do it for fun?” And then we see this gospel reading for Ash Wednesday when Jesus talks directly to us and says, “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.”  And I realize my holier than thou speech to my students is a little hypocritical and doesn’t carry much weight, because how often am I, are all of us, thinking, “Do we get ‘extra credit’ for this?”

There is some level of satisfaction or fulfillment involved when we get something back after putting time and effort into it. It’s nice to get a promotion, bonus or even a public thank you after a great effort at work. It feels great to receive that compliment after putting in countless hours at the gym and not eating fries for a month. We long to hear, “Honey, you’re such a thoughtful wife,” or “Mom, thanks for everything you sacrifice for me on daily basis.” I think sometimes we all want to shout through the rooftops some version of, “Does no one see how much I do for everyone else? How much time I spent on this? How little I have slept in the past ten years?” And yet, as this most holy of seasons begins, we are again reminded, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” But I (and maybe some of you) want to say back, “But that is hard!” And the difficulty might not lie in actually doing this, but in not getting frustrated, overwhelmed, or angry with the lack of recognition. So how, during this holy period of sacrifice, do we meet this challenge from our Lord?

About a year ago I had dinner with great friend of mine – Fr. Philip – an Augustinian priest, who I taught with for three years. I told him how much I was struggling with going to mass, that I often felt that I didn’t get anything out of it. He looked at me and said, “Well Lauren, what are you bringing to it?” Wow! Did that question make me think and change my approach to Sunday mass. And maybe that very question is the answer to the challenge of Lent. Maybe we spend the next six weeks not saying, “What do I get?” but instead “What do I bring?” The answer to that question just may lead us to the ‘extra credit’ we are all seeking.

—Lauren Condon '06


Weekly Gospel Readings

  • Thursday

    Luke 9:22-25 (pdf)
    "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."

  • Friday

    Matthew 9:14-15 (pdf)
    "'The days will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast.'"

  • Saturday

    Luke 5:27-32 (pdf)
    "'And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.'"