Slavery or Freedom:
The Opportunity of Time
1st Sunday of Lent
I remember a song in the movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1970’s) which had a song called “welcome to my nightmare”. For many Catholics we might think it fits the Lenten Season… especially for younger Catholics not yet aware of its importance.
In a world where we are encouraged to “have more”,
it can be frustrating to be told to “give up” and “do with less”. It’s assaulting our culture! However, as I get older, I realise it is like the pressure relief valve in in our lives.
Consuming, consuming; complaining, complaining; doing, doing; busy, busy; this is our normal life and it can overwhelm us or destroy us if we are not careful. Lent provides a structured opportunity to slow down and reflect: Am I OK? Are you OK?
Am I going somewhere good or am I once more a slave? A slave to money, to my job, to my selfish habits? And who is suffering, or missing out, because I am enslaved to work or money?
The Gospel complements the First Reading nicely by identifying the opposite attitudes:
1) using our gifts and material goods to only “feed” ourselves,
2) grasping for power, and
3) thinking we are God (ie. everyone is less important than “me”).
The First Reading reminds us that, out of love for us, God is responsible for the following:
1) rescuing us from slavery;
2) giving us the foundations for building our lives (“a land where milk and honey flow”); and
3) the necessary opportunities to succeed: freedom, community and knowledge of God.
In return, we are asked to show our gratitude by sharing a portion of what we produce with God (“…I bring the first-fruits of the produce of the soil that you, the Lord, have given me.”).
In these times, we share with God through our Church which redistributes our offering to places and people where God is still suffering: the poor, prisoners, the hungry, the lonely, the disabled.
In these times, also, we are aware that “our wealth” is not just limited to money, produce and “things”, but includes our time and skills.
Perhaps in this Lenten period we can concentrate on how we share our time. Don’t stop giving material things because the poor are still with us. However, instead of concentrating on what to give up as “material fasting”, let us concentrate on what “time” I am willing to give up for the good of others. Our fasting could be “fasting from my programme”.
How might this look? Consider the following suggestions:
1) be more regular at home to listen to my wife/husband/children;
(why not take your partner out for a date? Or your daughter for a treat?)
2) visit an aged care centre once a week;
3) write a letter to our Politicians calling for more better treatment of a people in need;
4) write a love letter to your partner;
5) write a letter of appreciation to your mother/father acknowledging our good start to life;
6) at work, take time to visit and listen to each employee.
Let me finish by sharing my joy because of our Oblate youth in Nairobi, Kenya, who are organising a visit to one of the very few homes for elderly. They are sacrificing time, money for transport, money to give as a gift and food from their personal supplies. These young people have very little, but they are full of enthusiasm and joy.
If we can stop viewing LENT as “something we have to do” and see it as an “opportunity”, then it becomes an adventure, a journey to greater peace and freedom.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI