Monday, March 02, 2009
Monday, first week of Lent '09: A Little Lavish Love
"And the King will answer them, "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."
Today, I spent the better part of the day grocery shopping and cleaning house. I mean furiously cleaning. Literally. At one point I got so angry at Ken I pushed him in the chest. He thought my assault was hilarious, thank God, but I thought, "Okay, you went waaaaaay off the love track there, Lent girl." I was bitch with a broom (and dust rag) today. And I repent.
I also repent for saying bitch.
What is so striking about this frenzy is that I was cleaning to prepare for a visit from my bff. Said bff is coming because she knows I've been sick and she wants to help me clean. Only I don't want her to clean my terribly neglected house. I want to offer her hospitality. Aren't we a pair?
This year I've found a new dimension to Lent that I've never experienced before. I'm realizing that Lent is not altogether private. There is a wonderful communal aspect to it. Lent was about stripping away to see Jesus more clearly before. Now, not only is it about stripping away the excess, fasting, and being awareness of my sinfulness, but it's also about the joy of giving and serving.
Praying the hours is teaching me to see a big God involved in a small world. But as tiny as it is to Him, He's invested in it. It's like Saint Julian of Norwich and her hazelnut vision. She saw a tiny thing no bigger than a hazelnut. She asked the Lord, "What is it?" The Lord answered her, "It's the world and everything in it." This small thing in her hand. She said that's when she realized, "God made the world, He loves it, and He will take care of it. And we should take care of one another. Social justice, as it's presented in the Psalms and the Gospels, is for all God's Church. In fact, it's for everybody.
Today in one of my devotionals I read some reflections from Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I love that man like I love Brennan Manning, and y'all know how I love the Ragamuffin. Fr. Benedict said that people want to give for Lent to the destitute, but many of America's poor aren't really destitute. They may have most basics, but "...we all need frills," he said. "We need them."
I don't have much money, but a surprise $20 dollar bill made it's way to me. I was going to put it in my Lenten bowl for alms, but my daughter Abbie, who's been working, bought me a ticket to the local high school's production of The Wiz. Lately we haven't been able to have any entertainment. We don't even have cable anymore. After much wrestling I took the money and bought my little girls their own tickets. Yes, I felt guilty. In my head I was one of the disciples who thought the woman pouring expensive nard all over Jesus--worth a year's wages!--should have given the oil to them to cash in and distribute the proceeds to the poor. "Man!" I thought, "I could have sent an orphan to school for a few months or something." But Nia and Aziza enjoyed the night out with mom so much. Their happiness was my happiness. It was such a simple thing, and they've had so many losses in the last six months. So I let the poor children I served be my own Saturday night. There's a lot of Lent left. Together my babies and I can work to do something for a few orphans. I think God is big enough to provide for my girls and the less fortunate.
All that to say, we really do need frills. So, I'm blessing my friend with hospitality she won't expect, and she's blessing me with her humble service (I'll leave a corner in the basement for her to clean or something). Both of us get to be Jesus to one another, Matthew 25 style.
There are so many ways to show a kindness to someone. Go to a blog you visit in secret, and tell someone you're reading and you appreciate them. Bake a pie. Take a senior citizen to the doctor. Give a frill to somebody who doesn't get many. That's almsgiving too, and it's blessed, blessed, blessed. Like Fr. Benedict says, "You'll put a big smile on Jesus' face." After all, you're giving that frill to Him.