By John Fitzgerald
As a young boy I had some very powerful statements I could use under many different circumstances. One of the most powerful was, “Do-over.”
The phrase was used usually when my friends and I were playing a game outdoors. If you did not perform well, you could call: “Do over.”
“Do over” could be for a multitude of reasons: I didn’t hear anyone say “go,” I wasn’t ready, a car was coming, I thought I heard my mother calling. All in all, it was a way of getting a second chance to perform again, and hopefully better.
The fifth Sunday in Lent is upon us and panic has set in. I made many promises on Shrove Tuesday: I promised to forgo chocolate for the next 40 days. I promised to attend a weekday Mass in addition to Sunday Mass during Lent. I was not going to talk badly about my neighbor, I would not take the name of the Lord in vain and of course, no alcohol until Easter Sunday.
I’m sure many of these promises sound familiar to you. You might have made a few of these promises yourself.
And so the Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4: 1-11) comes to mind. Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights and resisted the offerings of the tempter.
Well, here’s how my Lent is shaping up: The chocolate promise was broken on the first Saturday of Lent. I made one weekday Mass in the last five weeks. I cursed my neighbor for letting all the leaves from his tree fall in my yard, and forgot my promise about not using the Lord’s name in vain. I can keep the alcohol promise because I don’t drink anyway.
If you have broken any of your Lenten promises, then you know how I feel. I have failed again, and guilt has set in. The human Jesus did not give into temptation after 40 days in the desert even with the great heat, lack of water and huger. Many of us have not lasted the first week of Lent.
Looking through some of my notes from the Rite of Christian Initiation (R.C.I.A.) group I meet with on Wednesdays, I came across the liturgical calendar. The calendar started with Advent, went to Christmas, to Ordinary Time, to Lent, and from Lent to Easter, from Easter to Pentecost, followed by Trinity Sunday with a continuation of Ordinary Time and the feast of Christ the King ending the year.
After all these years I have finally grasped how wonderful this calendar can be. After the feast of Christ the King, Advent started again. I suddenly realized that this is the “Great Do-Over.”
I once heard a priest, who I consider a friend, say that what makes the Catholic Church great is its humanity. What can be more human than to acknowledge you have not performed well and would like a do-over. And to add to the humanity, the Church grants us the do-over without asking for a reason.
So, while I may have broken my Lenten promises, I can still ask for a do-over. All of us can.
During this Lent and Easter season, be grateful that the Church is human and that we will always be able to ask and receive a “do-over.”
Fitzgerald is a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights, and a lay pastoral minister.