The Exercise of Lent
Sometimes I throw my tried and true Catholic beliefs aside, put on my Make Heresy Great Again red hat, and try to be a liberal. Like a good liberal, I have the ability to interpret the teachings of popes in the manner which suits me best. Of particular interest to me is St. Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. The body. Let me say that again with greater emphasis... The BODY! *flex, kiss bicep, run to a mirror* You get my drift? The connection between the Theology of the Body and lent is undeniable. Let me flesh this out for you. Let's work out this idea, if you will. We'll gain insight. Flex our ideas. Lunge ahead. Just weight and see.
Now following this recent Ash Wednesday I noted on Facebook a trend of Ash Selfies. Maybe I should hashtag that, or ashtag it #ashselfie. Complete rookies. Posting a picture of yourself with ashes on your forehead is the equivalent to those people who post pretentious pictures of themselves at the gym. You know the kind. They have to tell the world that they are working out. But their hair is perfect. There is no sweat. And is that a new Under Armour compression shirt? They are true amateurs. To paraphrase Stevie Wonder: They haven't done nothing. No, no, no. One must wait until the end of the workout, with sweat and blood dripping, before taking a selfie. Similarly, Ash Selfies are for amateur Catholics.
But soon after Ash Wednesday the realization kicks in: "Holy Crap this is going to be kind of tough." You soon realize where you're at. "I guess I am sort of addicted to chocolate, and TV, and eating chocolate while watching TV..." This is similar to: "I guess I can't actually lift as much as I thought I could... and I'm out of shape... and this Under Armour compression shirt makes me look fat..." Tough lessons. This can either inspire you, or send you to the showers early. At this point it's mind over matter. No pain, no gain. No fasting, no lasting. No tussle, no muscle.
And don't forget Fridays. Let's be real, if you can't "bring it" on a lenten Friday, you can't bring it period. Extra discipline with food. The Stations of the Cross. Self-flagellation. Which is comparable to that extra effort on your last set of tricep dips. If you can't bring it on the last set, you can't bring it period.
Ahh, but there are Sundays which don't count for lent! (Sort of). Take a break! A mini-Easter. Not a whole break, mind you. Just a breather. Like taking a break from your workout to go the bathroom. Or check some messages. It's good to get away for a second. Does this help you with your workout? Mmmm, probably not. But you don't want to burn out either. And sometimes we get a solemnity too, like St. Joseph's feast day. This is equivalent to opening a Gatorade during a workout. How sweet. How energizing. "And they say it's good for me! I will show off to the rest of the gym! I hope they notice!" Nah, Catholics never make a big deal to others about solemnities in lent... Never... Now get back to work.
Oh but lent drags on. Some workouts are like this. And if it feels like this, then you are quite possibly not gaining with lent. Just like a lame workout. You're lucky to maintain, not gain. But there is a game-changer at the end! It's there for the taking. The last 5 minutes of your workout! If you bring it, you can win it. No matter how poorly you're doing, the final 5 minutes of a workout can salvage everything. You can still earn that great muscle burn. But it's up to you! Don't give up! And this, my friends, is also what is known as Holy Week. Even if lent has been pathetic, you can make up for lost time. BUT!... if you can't get psyched for Holy Week, you will forfeit your prize at the end.
Most especially you must be psyched for Good Friday. Good Friday is the last gasp. It is the final push. It is what you came here for. To quote Nike: "Just do it." And just do your last set. That final burn. That striking pain on your last bicep curl is why you're there. It will all be worth it! Push forward! Nothing else matters! Dig deep!
And you made it! The reward has been won! Take that Easter Vigil Selfie. Or take that End of Workout Selfie. You are free for another year. Or another 47 hours. Of course, if you don't live right in between that time... you might not be any better off. Ultimately Theology of the Body can only go so far. In the end I guess there needs to be a true conversion of heart and soul. Maybe we ultimately are just dust, and to dust we shall return?