There is an old country and western song entitled “Stop the world and let me off”! At times, I can understand quite clearly the sentiment of whoever wrote that song. Our modern lifestyles are frantic. We live life at a relentless pace. So all of us, at some stage or other, need to stop and take stock of our lives. Jesus asks his followers today: “Can you, for all this worrying, add one single cubit to this span of life?. We know from our experience that we can’t. Yet we still worry and fret about the most trivial of things!
Stock-taking is an important task in the retail sector. A business which does not do periodic stocktaking may end up losing touch with what the consumer really wants and end up with a shop cluttered with unwanted stock and a failing business. Stocktaking may require a business closing the doors for a day or two, but that is a sacrifice worth making…It will reap much benefit later…
Our lives are in constant need of stock-taking too. That process can be a painful one, but it is a sacrifice worth making. And yes! We do need to stop the world from time to time and step off…to take stock of our lives and where we are going… be that by means of a retreat, or a time of prayer or meditation each day that we set aside every day.
It is interesting to note how in recent years Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent has been used to great effect by various secular agencies or organisations. They promote Lent as the perfect opportunity to give up smoking or drinking and embark on a healthier lifestyle. We seem to instinctively recognise that our physical bodies periodically need a detox… a kick start to put our house in order… to give up smoking or to get fitter. But have we forgotten that a truly effective detox involves addressing all toxins in our lives not just what goes into our mouths. Indeed sometimes it is what is in our hearts or what comes out of our mouths which can be most toxic!
You might have heard of or seen the television programme Operation Transformation that has had huge success at home. One of its ‘points-forts” is its very wholesome attitude to a healthy life. The presenters recognise that you can’t just deal with matters pertaining one part of your life while ignoring other imbalances in lifestyle or hurts which we all carry.
The Church has always espoused a form of Operation Transformation albeit a spiritual one…Lent; a season set aside with the purpose of honestly and humbly confronting unhealthy or broken relationships, past sins, self-centred or self-absorbed behaviour which is inward looking and oblivious to the plight of one’s neighbour. This ancient custom draws a clear link between the physical privations of fasting, self-sacrifice and almsgiving and a renewed heart which is more attuned to others and their difficulties.
Fr. Dwayne Gavin is chaplain at the Irish Chaplaincy in Paris and the original article can be found here.