Read in the Gospel awhile ago, about the Gerasene demoniac, and couldn't help noticing that the lepers, the possessed, the ones whom Jesus heals always want to follow him, but he always sends them home to tell their families what the Lord has done for them. Or, in some cases, to tell no one who healed them.
I think I've missed this point in the past, as I've always thought the highest form of praise is to "leave all things you have, and come and follow me."
To those he has healed, Christ says, go home to your family. Go be in relationship with your people. Make reparation, which in many ways, is a more difficult vocation than leaving a tragic past behind and starting fresh among new people.
A friend recently related that her confessor says we are supposed to confess the same things over and over again--that it's a sign we are noticing the parts of our life that are in most need of conversion, the things that are true attachments, and obstacles to salvation.
Example: my three-year-old had the cough that makes you barf, so we couldn't go anywhere for awhile, and instead, I spent an entire day eating. I can't even recall everything--toast, cereal, popcorn, PB&J…I don't know how I did it, how I managed to always be eating, but somehow my day allowed it, and I didn't stop it.
It's become more and more apparent to me that I need to be more faithful with an examination of conscience at night time.
The morning prayer is all hopefulness, but the evening prayer is an accounting. In the evening, one has to reconcile and accept the reality of who we are. There's a sadness to the evening prayer, acknowledging failure, knowing the day has come to an end, and the only thing left to do is offer it up, sleep on it, and start again in the morning. The morning prayer is child's play, the evening prayer, an old man's nocturne.
Anyway, without the exam at night, I might never realize that my gluttony had crossed a line. I didn't think about it, and I would rather not think about it, and if I'd waited until my next confession to remember it, I never would have remembered.
At a Parish dinner early in Lent, the Altar Society served cake pops for dessert. I took one and put it in my purse, so that I could save it and eat it on Sunday. I don't usually pocket dessert at the Parish dinners, but cake pops are sort of a novelty, one I've never tasted before.
The Parish dinner was Wednesday, so the cake pop had to survive four days in our home before I could eat it. On Friday, one of the kids uncovered my secret hiding place, opened the wrapper of my cake pop and bit into it.
"No!" I said, taking what remained out of his hands. "You ate yours already. This one's Mommy's." The pop, now opened, would be stale by Sunday--there was no point wrapping it back up, so I shoved what remained into my mouth in one bite. It tasted like cake, which I have had before, many times, and then I felt annoyed that I broke Lent to eat it.
That cake pop was the beginning of the end of my Lenten observation. The next time I encountered a rogue sweet on a weekday I didn't feel as bad about eating it, and the third time, I thought, "Did I give up sweets for Lent? Maybe I actually gave up TV. Yes, TV."
A friend from Church who also has five young children said her cake pop lasted only until Saturday. It was a better showing than mine. But I asked her, what is it then, about this life, being Moms, being older, that makes it seem more difficult to stick to a Lenten sacrifice? We both agreed that when we were younger, we'd finish Lent triumphant--giving up sweets or coffee was hardly a challenge.
Here's what we came up with:
1. Nursing and pregnant mothers get a dispensation on Lenten fasting--a dispensation that we have gladly taken--which means for the past ten years, while I was almost perpetually pregnant or nursing, I fell out of practice with sacrificing foodstuffs.
2. We are more tired now that we're older and have more children. We are also more likely to rely on food or drink, sugar or caffeine, for quick energy in the morning or afternoon.
3. Both of us went through a reversion experience in our young adulthood, which gave us zeal, or spiritual enthusiasm for the rituals and practices of our faith. Ten, fifteen years later, some of that zeal has mellowed.
4. We now hold the keys to the pantry, and not everyone in the family has given up sweets. Which means, we're encountering sweets more regularly, perhaps as leftovers on our children's plates, or tucked away in places only we know.
5. Being home with kids, we are busy about the home life, but also, less busy than we were with 9 to 5 jobs, where food was stashed in a break room far away from the work area. Now we have more mental "down time" to think about food, and our work predominately takes place in the kitchen.
Which brings us to Holy Week. I have pause to think about how I observed Lent this year, and as usual, I've had a rather disappointing show.
My zeal for the rituals and practices of my faith has become more inclined towards those I used to find distasteful--examinations of conscience, Confession, rituals that illustrate how fallen I still am, how needy I still am, rituals of cleansing.
Go forth and sin no more.