Lent’s Garbage Can

“Where Do We Put It?”

Its shape is usually circular and placed in a corner of the kitchen. Not seen but available for those tossable tosses. Mine has a foot opener making it easier to dump, but cheaper folks need to lift the top of theirs for the other hand to toss off that something they no longer need. Never good at basketball, you’d be surprised how many inches I’m away from it, and I still miss. Go figure.

Where do we put it?

Something that’s no longer needed? We call it garbage, and we rid ourselves of it. You’ve got to be kidding! I’ve gone through mine often looking for that critical piece that I thought was no longer important and didn’t need any longer. I’ve rummaged through coffee grounds and smelly cigarette butts until I remember … it’s on my bedroom bureau. “Oh, well,” I say to myself, attempting to regain my self-respect even though I live alone and no one is watching me rummage, except my two cats. (The cats are thinking to themselves, “I told you that piece of paper was important, but no, do you listen to us?!”)

Being a guest in someone’s home is trickier in finding one. Sometimes, you need to wait until you’re alone to see where they placed theirs. Richier homes have theirs in a built-in cabinet often near the dishwasher. Others will put them in their hallway as though to disguise its purpose. I think that’s all meant to fool me into an “Easter Egg Hunt” to rid myself of my snot-filled tissue. If the hostess enters during my hunt, I easily say that my back hurts and bending helps. She sees through my ruse and ends my “Easter Egg Hunt” with a point of her finger.

Where do we put it?

Bathrooms are the easiest to house them for they’re always next to the toilet or slightly behind it. Living rooms? Unequivocally, never, ever present. If you need one in the living room, then you’re out of luck. Put the tissue in your pocket and say to yourself, “March on, valiant solider” because there has to be a bathroom around here somewhere.

Its purpose? Leftovers. They are the bits and pieces of our lives – bits, that linger around with a presumed value but time slowly dissolves its usefulness and – pieces, now needing a final resting place. It fills itself until you discover that no more once valuable things yet now un-valuable items can fit inside. The person who created a temporary plastic container placed inside the permanent container has got to be a millionaire and living in Boca Raton. Brilliant invention for all us tossers.

It’s now a breeze to remove the temporary plastic of unwanteds. “Thanks be to God” for the Boca guy who allows us to pull strings together and completely toss all of our losses with a single toss. Weekly we place it in front of our homes, as though we’re proud of our tosses. Having a grade school age child living in your home during those weekly driveway treks becomes a true blessing for this mindless task. (The lazy parent says to the child, “It teaches you character.”) Then, every week, an equally intelligent machine mechanically arrives at your home to pick up what you no longer wish to hold, store or see.

Where do we put it?

Speaking of outside, the “every week” service is complimented but an “every other week” for those tossables destined soon to be revisited by someone. You may think that you’ve ridden yourself of no-longer-valuable things, but months from now that newspaper you were reading soon becomes the snot-filled tissue I will toss away at your Christmas party. And, I’ll do it in her fancy kitchen!

Forget that “overflowing cup” along with our smoothly “oiled heads”

11949844571642344710cestino_pieno_architetto_01.svg.hiWhere is my silly ditty leading? To that famous Psalm 23 that we all love but often dismiss its most important verse, “You set the table before me in the sight of my foes.” Put aside that wonderful overflowing cup along with our smoothly oiled heads; my enemies are right across from me … and in a fancy restaurant? $38.00 for a steak and I need to contend with my envy, jealous and licentiousness? “Oh, wait! I don’t know what licentiousness means!” (You can’t sin unless you know what it means … and can spell it.) You can add calumny as well.

Where do we put it?

My unnamed object is the object we think we use to rid ourselves of attitudes or feelings that are harmful … to us and others. We attempt to throw them away as in Confession. We leave the booth (if we enter it in the first place) and leave it relieved that “all that’s behind me now and it’s a brand, new day for me.” Until one hour later. Even without Confession, we think the same MO. It’s over now and never to return.

“I love the Catholic Church.”

I love the Catholic Church. (Why do people always need to make that preface before they comment on the Catholic Church? Will Rome call my home? Will Google pick that up?) My comment is that we all fail at being the people that God created us to be. Will we, also, never succeed. We will never, ever be that purest, sincere creation. Original Sin was clean because of our parent’s baptismal diligence but sin still permeates our whole life. The Confessional prayer of forgiveness says, “And to sin no more.” Wait! It’s going to happen away, trust me on this. I say at Mass something similar while I smile to myself, “That we sin no more” as though there’s an off-ramp that we always seem to miss. It’s gonna happen again, and then again.

Please don’t chock it up to “human nature” because then you’re a heretic of the Church. The incarnation of Jesus showed us that “human nature” is divine. The union of human/divine is what makes the Jesus miracle, a miracle. We no longer flounder, we find. We no longer haplessly hope because hope is shown to us. St. Paul says that “we groan and yearn,” I love those words, but he also says that we’re “fools for Christ.” It’s foolish of us to think that we can truly be what God created us to be. One Catholic author suggests that we become “better than ourselves.” There is no “better” than what God created at our birth.

Like that unnamed container, we are always searching for somewhere to put those parts of our lives we no longer wish to live with, look at, or want to tolerate within ourselves. There is no magical bucket to bucket our “stuff.” King David rightly tell us that there’s only a dinner table with all of them proudly assembled before us. And, honestly, would you want it any other way? You’re all business people. You have an employee with a so-so attitude, but he does a good job. You keep him employed, but you know what he’s up to and doing. That’s David’s metaphor.

You can’t throw away anger, jealous, sexual urges and toss them conveniently into the Boca guy’s plastic bag. Because just like the movies we all watch – it comes back to haunt you. When the antagonist returns for another round of fake boxing, the hero says, “Gee, I thought I was done with that.” Scripture talks about supposed forgotten demons who only return to live within you, but now stronger and stronger. That circular container cannot discard the even scarier circular return of even beefier demons.

“Peek-a-boo”

But what happens when anger, frustration, jealousy or any other silly sins fills your mind or acts inself out? You place them before you – right in front of you so you can see them at all times. At your dinner table, from the first cocktail to your unnecessary dessert. You can say to yourself, “‘Peek-a-boo, I see you’ and I know what you’re up to and I want you near me, hell, right in front of me in my favorite overpriced restaurant.” David could have placed those foes anywhere – in your mind or heart. No, he choose a dinner table. The place where relatives gather, tell stories, laugh and argue about the quality of a Trump vote. It’s the place where those gather always begin with a prayer.

They say that religion and psychology don’t mix. Those are silly people who love to write about stuff to get their names known. Faith gives us reason and psychology often provides us with the methods. How’s that for a happy marriage? The husband says, “Honey, I know you right, I’m sorry.” The husband provided a perfectly good reason for continuing the marital union while methodically knowing she’s wrong. The marriage continues, and the conversation is settled at a later time with both religion and psychology meet a common ground. That’s the verse from Psalm 23.

A 90-year-old came to Confession and confessed looking at women in the wrong way. I said to him, “God bless you, you still got!” It’s not the looking; it’s what you do with that look that leads us to fail being God’s creation. We all get angry, but it’s the intention that triggers a moral failing and regret on our part. And remember that anger is only a symptom or expression of something more profound. That’s psychological thinking, and it’s combined with religion’s power of prayer.

We try to throw away sin from our lives. David tells us to live with sin, sleep with it and even dine with all of them surrounding you. I think that’s called awareness. You know it’s easy to lie to yourself because you believe yourself. Lying to others is trickier because they’re able to, so often, see through it. I’m an awful liar. After telling a lie, I always look down or away. I’m told that’s a D- in the lying department.

Find a technique to catch yourself (psychological) and reinforce it in and through God’s grace (religion). I use humor to stop me from my petty sins. It works for me because life would be very empty for me if it weren’t for humor – humor about others but especially laughing at and about myself. A technique I thought of while writing this was to give your feeling an adjective. Don’t just say jealousy but how about “choking jealousy” because that’s what it does to you. Chokes the goodness out of you and denies the goodness in someone else. And who wants to be choked? Envy? Think of the ugliest pair of socks you own, and you’ve given envy a name. Argyle-Knee-High envy. Naming and placing are essential in our battle against (or should I say dealing with) sin. Add Sour Milk to modify lust and see if takes on a healthier twist for you. (I hate when I need to smell old milk.)

“We proudly boast of our successes,
why
not boast of controlling and recognizing our failings?”

If you notice, both “naming and placing” don’t discard or throw anything away. Instead, it makes us owners of our failings. We proudly boast of our successes. Well, why don’t we, at least in private, boast of controlling and recognizing our failings? Naming and placing them where we can watch and weigh them daily. That may not lead to a sinless life, but it is a life worthy of God’s attention and mercy.

Lent is supposed to be about “letting go,” freeing ourselves to offer ourselves to God because of the resurrection. Instead of letting go of dispositions or attitudes that will surely return, how about saying, “hold fast,” and as Scripture says, “to the things that last.” Hold the gifts tightly you treasure most in your life and hold tight those things that keep you down or, worse yet, things or actions we use to keep others down.

Lent is not only a seasonal noun but a verb meaning “to borrow.” God’s lent us this body to praise and give glory back to God through this body. He gave it to us, and trust me on this; God wants it back. Someday. It’s on loan with an expiration date that surprises both God and us.

In my 38 years of doing this, I’ve always been confronted by priests and parishioners with that cute alliteration, “confusion or clarity.” “Don’t confusion the laity.” If this were 1920, then I’d agree. During those times, a priest was supposed to be and only talk all about clarity to those without the same education. (As though clarity was truly reached.) But those days are long over but appear to be returning. In me, the Church got the wrong guy for that “clarity” job. I’m not the answer man, as much as I’d to think I am. I believe my purpose in ministry is to confuse to get both you and me thinking about clarity. I have as many unanswered questions as you have. Unfortunately for you, I also have this vague, Godly authority. I’m a single guy with two cats along with much life experiences. Many of you have spouses, children and grandchildren and many life experiences of your own. What’s wrong with letting us confuse each other together in this wonderful, confusing gift that God calls “life.”

We may never achieve crystal, clear clarity but the fun and adventure of life is always about searching for our meaning and purpose. And, it changes with each of life’s stages. If you thought the business world was dog-eat-dog then just wait until 8:00, first retirement day, Monday morning, barefoot in your kitchen wearing your bathrobe, third cup of coffee with nothing to do … until Thursday. And then, it’s only a doctor’s appointment.

“A ‘midlife crisis’ isnt a crisis, it’s a sacred blessing…”

We reached a degree of clarity during one stage of life and we feel content and comfortable for awhile (thinking this will last for lifetime) until confusion again sets in requesting even more clarity. (“Psychology mixed in with religion, anyone?”) A “midlife crisis” is not a crisis. It’s a sacred blessing discarding childish notions and filling your life with dollops of wisdom and kernels of knowledge. If people weren’t so self-conscious during their midlife trial, I think the Church ought to have a ritual to spiritualize it and encourage its process. (I was forty-two when mine hit). I hope that you meet more people like me to confuse you, again and again, helping you to seek that elusive clarity.

And, if I’m not mistaken, I think that clarity is called “Heaven.”

Oh, by the way, here’s the definition and spellings of those two sins.

licentious | līˈsenSHəs |adjective
1 promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters.
2 archaic disregarding accepted rules or conventions, especially in grammar or literary style.

calumny | ˈkaləmnē |noun (plural calumnies)
the making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone’s reputation; slander.

You are now permitted to commit them. 11949844571642344710cestino_pieno_architetto_01.svg.hi

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com.
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