A little levity in the midst of the battle - this is basically my homily from the school Mass this morning. It made me smile at least
"the king of Nineveh...rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes." Jonah 3:6
When my brothers and I were kids we constantly were getting dirty...especially in the Summer. We'd swim in the creek, play in the mud, run around in the yard, climb trees, build forts, ride bikes, play basketball and football - in a word we got "filthy" almost every day.
We also considered it an extreme luxury (it was rare) where our Mom would overlook our nightly shower and we got to go to bed dirty!!!
Now, as an adult, the idea of getting dirty doesn't do anything for me, and I actually mostly try to avoid it.
Now to the King of Nineveh. He heard the preaching of Jonah about the need to repent, and he put on scratchy clothes and sat in the dirt.
Many people hear that story and think..."That's so sad...that poor guy...how depressing that he sat in the dirt and got all gross."
Many people, from the outside, say the same thing about Lent.
"How sad...how depressing...that a person would remember that they are sinners...what a downer!"
I want to offer a different way of looking at that king and also a different way of looking at Lent.
Perhaps it wasn't depressing or sad at all for that King. Perhaps he was thrilled to be in the dirt again, just like he was a little child. Perhaps, after he realized what really mattered, after he realized that his food and his robes had only been distracting him from the Truth, did he shed them like a kid and hop in the dirt.
Perhaps our Lent is the same way, if we only look at it differently. Lent can be a time of great joy, of remembering what matters, and thus the giving up of candy bars and TV, the giving up of video games and treating each other meanly, is not sad but can be a cause for celebration. Perhaps, if we only look at it differently, we can see Lent as it truly is.
Children love getting dirty. Most adults, like the king today, hate getting dirty. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Jesus said:
"unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."