Homilette for Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 2:1-11; Mark 9:30-37)

The inelegant name “Fat Tuesday” (Mardi Gras) is derived from the ancient custom of households consuming all remaining fatty foods before Lent begins. Lent was a time of severe penance when Christians did not eat meat or desserts made with animal fat. Like most good practices, Mardi Gras has often been corrupted. Today it is sometimes celebrated in the spirit of orgy rather than as a dutiful, albeit cheery, preparation for a devout fast.

The gospel today indicates a similar distortion of values. Jesus has confided in his disciples that the Son of Man will suffer and then experience glory. They, however, refuse to probe what this might mean preferring, instead, to dwell on fatuous concerns of self-importance. Their obtuseness might be as comical as a Three Stooges routine except for the fact that they have witnessed different indications that Jesus himself is the one who is about to undergo the ordeal. Thus, their denseness becomes a sad commentary on human nature.

If we wish, we might eat an extra piece of meat or drink a glass of wine today. But let us do so with an eye on tomorrow. During Lent we should take stock of our sinfulness. We will strive to understand how our selfishness has impeded us from appreciating both the price and the benefit of our redemption.