Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9
His shoes said it all. Either he’d come in wearing his ordinary, workday wingtips or his well-worn, grass stained sneakers. Which ones he wore said it all.
Every Saturday morning my father would make his way to the boys’ bedroom. We’d all feign deep sleep as we heard him approach. Sometimes we could discern just by the sound of his footsteps whether he was wearing the wingtips or sneakers. Sometimes, uncertain what the day held for us, we’d crack an eye to look down toward the floor to get a glimpse of his shoes. His shoes said it all.
Some of us might remember the time when the work week for many included a half-day on Saturday. On those Saturdays when my father would head to the office, he’d put on his wingtips. On those Saturdays he stayed at home, on went those broken in and well worked sneakers. And what shoes he wore really did make a difference. Wingtips meant he left a list of chores for us to accomplish by day’s end without much supervision. Sneakers meant he’d be right by our sides as we worked down that list of chores.
It was never a question of "if." It was only a matter of "when" my father would appear to rouse us from sleep. There were always chores to be done: a garage to clean out, a lawn to mow, or a fence to paint. But for my father, it was not really about the garage, the lawn or the fence. It was about contributing to our family life. He tried to help us learn how to be a member of this community, this family. He tried to instill in us a spirit of generosity.
This story comes back to me as I think about Lent. We can easily experience Lent as a time when we can do all the chores we know need doing in our lives. There’s always something that needs cleaning out, trimming, or painting inside us. We’d all like to spruce up our lives and make ourselves more presentable to God. But all those really admirable-and I mean it-Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving should not be viewed as spiritual chores. They are opportunities for us to grow in being a more generous and kind people. Lent gives us the opportunity to really become more a part of this family called the Christian community, together helping build the Kingdom of God.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.