Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's Time for the Spiritual Olympics!

(The sound of trumpets, booming drums...)

In a world locked in laziness, on a people weighed down by cookies and creme-filled donuts, a light of hope dawns. Yes, it's LENT, otherwise known as... the Spiritual Olympics!

That's right America! The 40 days of You-Know-What are glaring up at us from our crumb-covered, soda-stained desktop calendars. The opening ceremonies have already begun, we've been stamped (on the forehead) and now we have complete access to the Olympic stadium. Here are some suggestions on how to secure a * medal for yourself:

It's basic but bold. Try cutting some of those ties, those seemingly thin cords that might actually be holding you prisoner to yourself. Is it always ME first? Do I ALWAYS have to put in my opinion, seeming to listen to others but actually just waiting until they're done talking so I can talk?

Try letting go of the preciousssss, the one thing you feel you're entitled to every day without thinking. Unplug it, turn it off, clear it away. (Is it TV? Constantly checking e-mail? A latest news fixation? Radio crowding out the silence?)

Now we're talking... If you want this Spiritual Olympiad to be a real life-changer, then step up to the plate for this one. In the midst of all of the activity of this season, the "stuff" we hope to work on, the extra prayers, stations of the cross, fasting, blah blah blah, this one shines above the rest. The secret to getting the GOLD? Do nothing. Stop. Surrender. Put your hands up in the air and let yourself become vulnerable before the Mystery of God. Be open and barren as a desert. This is the toughest event by far; the great emptying of self. The letting go, even of the idea of doing lots of good things. In the words of the late, great Pope John Paul II, "Ours is a time of continual movement which often leads to restlessness, with the risk of "doing for the sake of doing". We must resist this temptation by trying "to be" before trying "to do". " (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 15)

You may get the jitters for a time, but hang in there. The desert of Lent is detox for the soul. It's main purpose is to allow us to finally loosen our tightened fists and let Love in. “From the point of view of the Christian faith, man comes in the profoundest sense to himself not through what he does but through what he accepts. He must wait for the gift of love, and love can only be received as a gift... And one cannot become wholly man in any other way than by being loved, by letting oneself be loved..."
- Pope Benedict XVI

So there it is. The greatest challenge in this season is for us to be able to say to God, not "Look what I have done for You!" but to say with Mary "Be it done unto me according to your word."

Happy Lent!

* DISCLAIMER: None of the dynamic Lenten Olympic events listed above would be possible without the sweet influx of grace. We can't do it alone, but God won't save us alone either. It's the Catholic combo of a grace-inspiring, person-perspiring, human-divine collaboration. Grace inflates, inundates, inspires and builds on our human nature. God takes our yes (and even our half-hearted maybe) and makes it something extraordinary.
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