A priest was walking at night on a deserted street, when out of an alley came a robber who demanded the priest hand over his money and his wallet. As the priest reached into his pocket to retrieve his wallet, the robber noticed his collar and asked, “Are you a priest?” to which the priest replied “Yes.” The robber sighed “Oh! I cannot rob a priest. “Put your wallet back.” The priest thanked the robber and reaching into his other pocket pulled out a piece of candy for the robber. The robber, putting his hand up, replied “Oh no Father, I gave up candy for lent.”
I have heard this joke before, but this time I understood.
As our family was sharing with each other our Lenten sacrifices, we realized how easy it is to go through the motions, even if our intentions are not to do that. We give up a food, or an action, or we try to be better, but like the robber are we just going through the motions of giving up something and then living the rest of our daily life the same as usual?
I wonder if we have become numb to what is sin. There was a time when on TV you didn’t even see the husband and wife in the bedroom, now we see same sex couples, even teenagers, in bed. There was a time when dropping the” F” bomb was rude, even obscene, now it’s given a tense within the sentence structure. There was a time when we knew our neighbors, celebrated their successes and cried with their tragedies, now I’m afraid to open the door after dark. There was a time when I didn’t have to sit my daughter down to explain why we won’t be buying Girl Scout cookies .
Conversations now end with “we’ll have to agree to disagree” or “I believe in God, just not religion”.
Lent is a time of conversion. Turn away from sin, but also stand firm for Jesus.
Lent is a time of turning away from sin and back to God and includes some form of penance, without which the Christian is unlikely to remain on the narrow path and be saved (Jer. 18:11, 25:5; Ez. 18:30, 33:11-15; Joel 2:12; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; Acts 2:38).
Ashes are applied to our forehead in the sign of the cross as the words, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” are said to emphasize our call to continual conversion and holiness of life. It is a time of action. Lent is a verb.
I am still giving up caffeine but thanks to that joke told at Ash Wednesday Mass, I am reminded I don’t want to be the robber who gave up candy.