In a couple of days Lent will kick off. Many people, even non-believers, will start it in the traditional way by consuming pancakes on Tuesday. Polish people actually followed their traditions and started last Thursday, eating piles of doughnuts – the ones I had were delicious. Combining those two traditions gives me two excuses to devour a lot of savoury food. This is what I like in a multicultural society.
Sadly for many people that pancake feast will be the only aspect of Lent in their lives. But quite likely most of us here will take it more seriously. For many of us Lent will start on Ash Wednesday with a kind of abstinence and fast, and with a sign of the cross made in ash on the forehead. We will try to apply some self-limitations into our everyday routines. Perhaps some of us will attempt to change one or more unpleasant features of our own personality. Incidentally today’s gospel might give us some spiritual ideas for this Lent. Let’s look briefly but carefully at them.
First idea: people from the town gather in a house to listen to Jesus. There are two interesting aspects: it’s a community and they’ve gathered in the house, not a synagogue. Perhaps it might be an interesting idea to meet with the family or with a group of friends in a house to pray together, to read and to discuss the Bible. As Jesus said: ‘When two or three gather together in my name there I am among them’.
Second idea: five friends meet together at the house of one of them, who was a paralytic. Sometimes such a visit is difficult because of our helplessness in dealing with someone else’s illness. We don’t know what to say, how to behave. Every attempt of comforting seems to be a cheap coin. However what we can do is give a little of our precious time just to be with someone. Perhaps it might be a good idea to visit those who are housebound or deprived of a social life.
Third idea: Jesus forgives the paralytic, stirring up controversy among respected members of that local society. However the man stands up and walks on his own feet. Jesus explains that the physical healing is the confirmation of the spiritual one; the latter is more important.. There are vindictive people driven by resentments, grudges and hatred. From my own experience I know it’s a dead end; sometimes literally a dead end. Hatred is poisonous not only for my foes; most and foremost it’s poisoning my very own life. Forgiveness is the only way to deal with the past. Perhaps it might be a good idea to think about people I should forgive; or to think about those people I should ask to forgive me.
Those are three simple ideas; maybe it’s worth pondering on them before Lent kicks off, to enter it with something more than a belly stuffed with pancakes.