From Catherine Smith, Assistant to the Assistant Dean for Ecumenical Relations
Not as the world gives do I give? (John 14:27). Jesus? words floated into my awareness as I was rushing across the Seattle University campus during March?s record-setting rains and the attending chill.? I?m not sure what triggered these specific words to surface, but I?m glad for their inspiration because I was just about to embark on my annual guilt trip about how poorly I observe Lent. I do pretty well with The Triduum, of course, but pretty lousy with most everything else.? When I failed the I-won?t-eat- chocolate-during-Lent test, I seemed to fold.
Besides, I rationalize, Lent seems to rush in before I?m finished celebrating all the things that occur after the octave that begins with Christmas.? The three kings have barely settled in with their gifts when Ash Wednesday arrives and completely turns things sideways.? When I?m still intoning ?O Key of David, O Root of Jesse,? the Lamentations of Jeremiah begin their plaintive counterpoint. Jesus has just bid me Peace when he jolts me with what could be a warning, but in truth is a blessing: ?not as the world gives do I give.?? So how should I interpret this? I know how the world gives:? ?You should be over that by now? or ?Did everyone get exactly the same amount?? or ?This car, jewelry, or vacation will bring you true happiness.?? In my experience, what the world gives just doesn?t satisfy all that much.? In fact, what it gives often brings up issues?lots of them.
So what Jesus is really saying, I conclude, is this: ?I give you what YOU need without measuring.? I pour out the love YOU need, so you understand what abundant love feels like.?? It reminds me of the largesse of St. Benedict who reminded the abbots in his monasteries, that bread should be portioned out as each monk needed.? Benedict had worked out that ?one size does not fit all.?? He understood that doling out needs had to bear God?s stamp?it needs to fit the person, and match God?s giving, which is without measure.
My spirit responds to this.? A small, eight-word phrase, gives me my Lenten devotions.? They don?t look like traditional devotions especially, but they are prayers in action that I can relate to.? I have my answer to Lent:? I won?t give things up; I?ll give myself to. To the poor a greeting or helping hand; to the weary help with a task; to the grieving an ear to hear their needs; to my family forgiveness for real or imagined slights; to my co-workers respect for all they do; to everyone a kind word or the benefit of the doubt. To those I love loyalty, even if it means taking the cross from their shoulders and putting it on mine in an act of solidarity.
Written by Hannah Crivello
April 9, 2014