A Tuesday That Is Really Fat

Every Shrove Tuesday I think of Bill Sanderson. He was a priest in a neighboring parish in Cocoa Beach, Florida and was in a clergy, lectionary-study group with me for six or seven years. We also played tennis together several days a week for some of those years.

I think of Bill on this day because he was something of an iconoclast and, on Shrove Tuesdays, Bill and his parish eschewed the usual “pancake supper” and held instead a steak and wine dinner. His point was, if we’re going to fast, let’s really fast and if we’re going to feast, let’s really feast.

The parish I attend now does something of the same thing. While sticking to the traditional pancake supper, they feature really good, live jazz music offered by the Manny Lopez trio, a local celebrity and his friends. The mood is entirely festive and an appropriate way to feast before the fast begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday.

As Christians, I’m afraid we’ve really leveled out and tamed the annual cycles of feasting and fasting. Very few of us give up anything particularly significant for Lent beyond desserts or chocolate. And, with the possible exception of a few champagne receptions after the Easter Vigil, we don’t even celebrate together with much gusto.

All this is, I think, to our impoverishment. Of course, we don’t “have” to fast. We certainly should not do it to earn God’s favor or punish ourselves with some kind of penance. But, denying ourselves something, saying No to ourselves in small things can in fact strengthen our spiritual muscles so that we can say No when it is really important in life — No to cheating on our taxes…or on our spouses. No to drugs. No to revenge and violence.

Nor, I suppose, do we “have” to feast. Only if we want to celebrate the incredible gift of this fantastic universe and the beautiful “earth, our island home” on which we live. Only if we are grateful to have awakened this morning to another day of living and moving and having our being together as colleagues, friends, and lovers. Only if we recognize that none of this comes to us because we have earned it. But only because

God is good…all the time!  All the time…God is good!

And that calls for a Celebration.

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