Tuesday, February 21, 2012

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. During the Middle Ages 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 been corrupted. Today it is often 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 horribly before he experiences glory. They, however, refuse to probe what this might mean preferring, instead, to dwell on fatuous concerns of self-importance. Their obtuseness would be as comical as a Three Stooges routine were it not for the fact that there have been indications that Jesus is referring to himself as the one to undergo the terrible ordeal.

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