Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Submit Yourselves, Then, To God (James 4:7)
"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." (James 4:8)
Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Shrove is the past tense of the verb, to shrive, or to obtain absolution through sacramental confession and an act of penance. It got this name from the tradition of people going to Confession as a way of preparing for Lent.
Shrove Tuesday is also known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. It was seen as a final day of festive celebration before beginning a long season of fasting and self-denial. Isn't it ironic that on this day, we are expected both to indulge the flesh one last time … and then go to Confession for our self-indulgence?
Perhaps you might enjoy some of your favourite "fat food" today. It's probably okay to break your diet just this once. But more critically, today is a grace-filled opportunity to ask ourselves: "How can I best use these next forty days to draw closer to Jesus?"
Today's first reading can serve as a guide. We can decide how we are going to "resist the devil," but we can also plan how we are going to "draw near to God" this Lent so that he can draw near to us (James 4:7,8). For in the final analysis, Lent is far less about giving something up and far more about making ourselves more available to God. If all we do is avoid eating sweets or watching too much television— without taking the opportunity to seek out the Lord more deeply we will have missed the primary purpose of this holy season.
So when you draw up your Lenten plan today, be sure to include increased time for prayer and Confession. Make it a point to fast not only from certain kinds of food but also from things like moodiness, anger, and a sharp tongue. This can be a season of deep transformation for all of us if we make a plan to draw near to God.
"Lord, I want to know you more this Lent. Show me how to purify myself and draw closer to you this season."