New Orleans is a great city to visit. The best thing about it, in my opinion, is the music. My best memory of the only time I visited “The Big Easy” is sitting on the curb in the French Quarter (because there was no possibility of squeezing one more person inside) listening to the best jazz music possible where the instruments themselves speak a language of life in all its joys and trials. I wouldn’t want to be there today, however, as it is Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) and a million guests are expected in the French Quarter for today’s celebrations.
I did some “surfing” this morning to see if I could find anything about the real meaning of this day when revelers follow the dictum of “eat, drink and be merry…” but there isn’t much attention given to the “morning after” where the revelry ends and the meaning lies.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, when Christians traditionally turn their attention to fasting and prayer, good deeds and sacrifice in order to reflect on the sufferings of Jesus in the lead-up to Easter. These days the strictures of the season have been relaxed. Rules of “fasting and abstention” from meat apply only to two days instead of every Friday and meal size restriction isn’t generally talked about any more. Giving up candy for Lent doesn’t seem as relevant; doing good deeds has become more the norm. Maturity seems to hold sway these days in our Lenten living.
The goal of any Lenten practice should not end with the celebration of Easter. Transformation is (and always has been) the goal. We pray and reflect more deeply during this season to follow the example of Jesus, loving more universally, living more honestly and giving more generously of ourselves.
Would that these weeks of practice would be so powerful that we would never “go back” but always move to deeper and broader living in God. It is possible. Why not make that the goal this year?