Do you know what February 22nd is? Yeah, yeah, Ash Wednesday, for millions of Christians around the world. Catholics are called to prayer, fasting, and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday – other traditions have some version of that.
Before Ash Wednesday, they are supposed to wrestle with something that they LOVE – A LOT –like chocolate, or cussing, or binge-watching those stupid TV shows, and give it up for those forty days. Good luck with that and your commitment to exercise too! We’re so pathetic when it comes to the teeniest bit of “suffering”.
But there’s another event on this day that everyone, faithful and heathen alike, will be celebrating. Something easier to stick to. It is – drum roll, please…
National Margarita Day!!! Olay…olay…olay…olay!
It is a sad commentary for all people of faith that they seem to compete with each other. Think of how many faithful Catholics receive their ashes on a throbbing forehead after reveling the night before.
Ash Wednesday should be one of the most sacred of church seasons. You see them everywhere, people with those strange ashes on their foreheads. You want to reach up and wipe it off for them because you think they don’t know it’s there, “You have something on your forehead. Let me get that for you.”
Some people focus these forty days entirely on the “giving up” aspect of it. Chocolate sales are probably higher on the days leading up to Lent than on Valentine’s Day! Perhaps that’s how Valentine’s Day got its start! Ya’ think? People began buying copious amounts of chocolate in February, and someone at Hershey noticed. It probably had nothing to do with St. Valentine. It’s a commercial windfall for Hershey and Hallmark. Cha-Ching! But I digress.
The morning after Ash Wednesday and National Margarita Day may appear to be similar.
- You wake up wondering if you really want to do this again.
- You feel an emptiness you can’t define.
- You wonder if you did anything the past year that you’ll regret confessing because you conveniently forgot that one nasty faux pas you failed to mention last year. OOPS. You know those stay on our record, right?
- You shower that already-faded reminder off your forehead and act like it never happened. You check the mirror. Thank goodness it’s not a tattoo!
- You ask yourself, again, “Why do I put myself through this forty-day review of all my shittines… Every. Single. Miserable. Year?!”
- You question if any of it even matters.
National Margureta Day:
- You wake up forgetting what happened the night before.
- You feel an emptiness you can’t define.
- You wonder if you did anything stupid the night before. You usually do, and someone you were with will probably remind you, or point out that tattoo they warned you against.
- You down a couple of aspirins for the headache.
- Then, you ask yourself – again – why you continue to do this when the outcome is always the same?
- You question if this annual event should be struck from your calendar!
Like it or not, they will both be back. You just have to decide which one you will allow in because it really is up to you. Alcohol will try to force its way into your mouth. Jesus will gently knock on the door of your heart. One will try t’kill’ya, and the other wants to bring you back to life. You decide.
Here is the beautiful lesson of Lent we can all take away, “Lent is not about giving up. It is about finding. It is about healing. It is about cleansing. It is about weeping. It is about reconciling,” says Carla Mae Streeter, O.P. (one of my former professors.) And only a person in love truly “gets it.” That’s where remembering becomes critical. Of course, we must never forget the suffering of Christ and the Love that hung on the cross on Good Friday. But that cannot be where it ends.
We must take our remembering into Easter Sunday and beyond – and rejoice! Death has no sting. Hell has no victory! God loves us that much! If we forget that, if we become so caught up in the “more important” things in our lives, we lose, and Satan wins. John Eldridge tells us that “the story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it. We must never forget that we are part of a greater story.”
Lent has something to teach us, no matter what our faith is. It’s about remembering. And who doesn’t need to be continually reminded of who we are as God’s beloved? (Also, when you walk out your front door the next morning, remember that God loves your neighbor too – because he threw up on your lawn last night!)
Even during the most difficult of times, are we aware that we are truly being held by a Mighty, Awesome, and Loving God? The richness of your life comes from a promise kept by the God who LOVES YOU DEEPLY AND PASSIONATELY. If the cross doesn’t prove that, if the empty tomb doesn’t prove that, if the resurrection doesn’t prove that, nothing will. You were created for love. Try to remember that.