Sunday, March 11, 2007

Regular Season vs. Playoffs

If you're a sports fan, or if you've ever played organized sports on any level, you know that there's the regular season and there's the playoffs. The regular season is when every single team plays the same amount of games. Some teams win a lot, some teams lose more than they win, but everyone plays the whole season. Playoffs are when teams compete for a championship. During the playoffs teams play until they are defeated, and then they stop playing.

Many Catholics, I think, treat Lent more like the playoffs than a regular season. On Ash Wednesday, everyone has visions of glory and make all kinds of Lenten sacrificial intentions (I'm going to give up chocolate, I'm going to pray every day, I'm going to go to Stations of the Cross on Fridays, etc.). But one failure within those intentions (one "bad game", if you will), and we act like our Lent is over and we can resume everything we gave up and discontinue everything we added to our lives. Pass me the Reese's peanut butter eggs and the black jelly beans; Easter has arrived!

Lent is a season. Think of it like a 40-game season. Like any sports team, the goal is to have "the perfect season" (all wins, no defeats). Yes, sometimes you'll have winning streaks and other times you may get into a losing slump of a few games. But you play the whole season, not just until you have a bad game! How many parents wouldn't allow their children to abandon baseball, football, hockey or soccer, just because their child got tired of losing? "It builds character", they'll tell the child, "It's good practice for next season and it builds your sportsmanship." You can't hit the ball or make a basket this time? You keep trying and trying until, one day, you'll do it!

"But how long do we have to play the game?", you ask. The short answer is until Easter time. But the truth is that we play these games of striving for holiness until our "big season" is over. And, if you're childhood was anything like mine, you only stopped playing when it got dark and you were called to come home.

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