Magazine article U.S. Catholic

If This Were My Last Lent

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

If This Were My Last Lent

Article excerpt

How would you make this Lent be a Lent like no other? For Father George Szews, it means giving up some things that are a lot more tempting than candy.

THE TITLE CAUGHT MY EYE, "YOUR LAST LENT." OH, I thought to myself, there is somebody trying to get a rise out of people, overstating the case. No one will fall for it. Of course, then I went on to read the piece. There wasn't much to it, except this question, "How would you live this Lent if you knew it were your last?"

I thought for a while. If this were my last Lent, I would... Well, if this really were my last Lent, I'm not sure I'd worry about Lent. It occurred to me that if I were going to die, the last thing I'd do is start fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays. The last thing I'd do would be to give up all those worldly pleasures that make it fun to be human, to be alive. That will come soon enough.

Nope, if this were my last Lent, I might just treat it like Easter. Bring on those chocolate Easter Bunnies, those maple-flavored cream eggs. Bring on the sunshine. Bring on the tambourine-tapping, bell-ringing, champagne-toasting roly-poly peasant band and let me celebrate. Let me go to someplace where Lent is over and people believe in Easter.

If this were my last Lent, I'd skip it. Wouldn't you?

The problem is, of course, that most of us don't know when the day and the hour of our demise will come. We don't know whether this is our last Lent or whether we've got several dozen more to go. Asking how we'd behave if this were our last Lent isn't all that helpful, I think. There is a better question, "If I had to live the next six weeks like I wanted to live for eternity, what would that look like?"

For starters, I'd probably be kinder. Most of the time when I am not kind, it really isn't because I'm a mean-spirited person. Like most everyone I know, I have that generic self-image of a "good person at heart." When I'm unkind, it's because I'm rushed. Kindness takes time and, unfortunately, seems expendable when I have to get things done, things people are depending on me to do. I'd be kinder, and I know that being kinder really means I'd have to be more generous, as generous as that self-perception I tout.

I also think I'd have to refamiliarize myself with God. It's not that God and I haven't had some good times together and some incredibly sad times together. But I think I often live with "God as a memory" more than "God as present."

The God I know best is the God of my First Communion. …

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