Lent: a Season of Grace

There was a child’s toy back in the day that kept us busy for hours. It was primitive by today’s standard of i-phones and computer games, but its simplicity made it doable for any kid.

It was called Etch-a-Sketch. It consisted of a TV-like screen covered with a silver dust on the inside. Two dials at the bottom controlled an invisible pen that would carve a drawing onto the screen. It was fun to watch the tiny point trace your design into the silver dust as your picture gradually appeared.

The drawings were primitive to say the least; flat, two dimensional profiles were the best you could “draw”. I tried to draw side profiles of birds (cardinals mostly). I was terrible at it. The problem was that once you scraped into the silver screen you were stuck with it. There was no eraser.

So when my cardinal started to look like a dinosaur, I could either push on doodling what looked now like a monster of some sort . . . OR . . . I could start over.
Starting over was easy in Etch-a-Sketch. You just flipped the board over and the secret silver stuff inside would re-coat the screen giving you a blank canvas. It was a do-over.


Things are not quite that easy in real life, are they? Years of a particular behavior create habits that just won’t go away. They’ve worked their way into our lives so as to become part of “who we are”.

Hopefully most of these are good habits and we should continue to do these. But sometimes what started out as a cardinal now looks like a dinosaur in my life. Selfish, lazy, arrogant deeds appear regularly on my canvas. I don’t want them. They hurt people. And when I think about it . . they hurt me.

So what can we do? We can’t just flip our lives leaving everything behind. That would ruin the good that we have done. I think it calls for a good look at ourselves to find what makes us look like a dinosaur to others, to God and to ourselves.

What might that be? Actually I bet you already know what’s causing problems with those you love most. Do you need a list? How about these . . .
Ways of acting that hurt others and myself:

  • Non-stop negativity about the world and the terrible state of things.
  • Failure to tell the truth about things. Exaggerating or cutting corners about what really happened.
  • Hunting for lustful images or welcoming them when they occur.
  • Rash judgment of people and their motives.
  • Refusal to let go of some slight or hurt from the past.
  • Failing to respond to calls, emails, invitations etc. in a timely manner.
  • Crude words and conversation to prove you’re a macho guy.
  • A hunger to “tell all” about some person so other might share similar feelings.
  • Enjoying the troubles and sadness of people you don’t like.

God and a close loved one can help you find what you need to address. What I most strongly urge (lest we be- come discouraged) is that you make your special Lenten effort about ONE THING. Don’t try to do too much. But hold yourself accountable for doing better with your particular weakness.

God bless your Lent.

Fr. Tim

A suggestion. Sometime in the morning as you begin your day, include this intention in prayer.

“Lord, this day I give to you . . . help me to turn to you when my old habit of ____________ comes knocking.”

Re-evaluate at noon and at night how you have done. No matter how it’s gone, thank God for the day and ask for the grace to do better tomorrow.