The 40 days of Lent begin this Sunday. For 40 long days we are not allowed to say the “a” word. I wish I could tell you what the “a” word is but then I would tell you what I’m not supposed to say for 40 days. (Whispering, But I can tell you that it begins with the letter “a.”)
God has partly abandoned us by denying our use of the “a” word before the reading of the gospel. So, we sing a filler refrain that we’d rather not use but have no choice in the matter.
While denying the singing of the “a” word, God has bolstered the use of another beautiful word, the “g” word. Grace.
Lent is a season of grace. If Advent prepares us for grace then Lent delivers the goods – wholly and completely. For me, the “g” word is more beautiful and powerful than the “a” word. “A” word just announces but “g” is a commodity, the real stuff.
Grace is a product, invisible agreed but still a real product. Picture a card game where faithful people wager a bet with “raising you three graces to your two.” I’d say to myself, “That guy’s got a good hand to risk those graces.” (If only the Church could sell grace then we’d be all set. Oh, wait. The Church did try but called it “indulgences” and it back fired because you can’t sell what someone already possess.)
You don’t think that grace is a product? Just listen to two of our prayers. I tell you each morning that the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you” and you all dutifully respond to me in the urban slang, “And back to you, bro!” We say that Mary is “full of grace” when that it is not even true. Mary was not “full of grace,” she was grace – from her pregnancy to holding her dead son.
The Trinity is grace and from our baptism has blessed us with all the grace that we need to get through this journey of life. That’s right! We already have all the grace we need. We just tend to forget, ignore or deny this grace filled product we call grace. Lent is the opportunity to renew and return to the grace filled people that God created us to be.
That’s my other problem with how we use grace. We keep adding letters to an already perfect word. We add the letters “filled” and “full” as if to make more important what is already of utmost importance. It is simply and powerfully “grace.” You don’t need to make it “graceful.” That’s like saying “most unique” which drives my fingernails down the chalkboard or “awesome movie” when an Israeli and Palestinian union would be a more fitting time to use that word.
We are already full of it, this beautiful word that we can say everyday, year round. It is the word and product and power given to us at baptism that is never totally spent or exhausted. It is grace. Remember, it’s the “a” word that’s on hold for 40 days.
God’s grace to us and our grace to each other and to ourselves knows no season. The season of Lent is reserved to renew and return us to who God wants us to be.
May you have a grace filled, no, I mean a graced Lent.