Tuesday, February 24, 2009

But the Flesh is Weak

My husband Thad and I were having a little conversation about Ash Wednesday the other day. It went something like this:
Erin: ...so, since we need to leave here about 5:15 in order to be at church by six to run through the music before Mass starts at 6:30 and then we're staying after Mass to practice Sunday's music instead of having choir practice on Thursday, I'm thinking that you and I should make our one main meal lunch instead of dinner, since there really won't be time for dinner anyway...

Thad: Stop.

Erin: What?

Thad: Just stop. Don't start planning and worrying about the fasting. You do this every year! It will be fine.
Which goes to show two things: one, how well my dear one knows me, and two, how little he understands the female planning mind, especially when the plans involve an extra little wrinkle like fasting.

None of the girls are old enough to be obligated to fast (since Church law only requires it of those who are 18 and not yet 60); and though I encourage various voluntary acts of sacrifice I wouldn't want any of them to attempt a full fast on Ash Wednesday as of yet (they're still growing, and I wouldn't want anybody to faint at Mass). So while I realize that Thad is right in that I tend to get all focused and worried about the fasting, I also know that somebody's got to think about the logistics of providing three regular meals to the girls (and possibly a snack when we get home from church, since dinner will be so very early) while also having available foods for the "two smaller meals" and the "one main meal" for Thad and me to eat when necessary. And our situation is nowhere near as complicated as the mom of many, whose older teens must fast and whose younger children must abstain but not fast and whose two-year-old is on a hunger strike and refuses to eat anything but Vienna sausages with ketchup.

The funny thing is, my worries and concerns about Ash Wednesday's fasting obligation have nothing to do with food deprivation. I frequently postpone or skip meals; I used to miss breakfast daily; and though I'm now good about remembering to eat breakfast, the price I pay for that is not being hungry enough/forgetting to eat lunch. I'm not one of those people who finds going without food for long periods of time to be difficult in and of itself.

So why do I get all worried about Ash Wednesday?

I worry that I'll forget, and eat something between meals. I worry that I'll be dishing up dinner for the girls and taste something absentmindedly. I worry that I won't remember to eat before church and will then get distracted when hunger finally hits. Because I pay so little attention to what I eat and when I eat it ordinarily, I worry when there are rules!

Sometimes I think that Martha, in the Bible, was a lot like me. Going along in "ordinary time," cooking food for herself, her sister Mary, her brother Lazarus--no big deal. Sure, she might have wished that Mary would take a few more turns in the kitchen, but then again, Mary was liable to put things away in the wrong place and use the wrong pans for things--so on the whole, Martha didn't mind being chief cook and bottle washer.

But then Jesus stopped in. With twelve disciples. And they were staying for dinner. And there were rules, rules about hospitality and serving and good hostessing and a host of other things to think about. And Martha got panicked, and frantic, and annoyed until all of that made her storm out of the kitchen and ask Jesus to tell her sister to come and help her.

And we know the rest of the story, how He told her that she was worried about many things, when only one thing was necessary; how He told her to stop worrying, and that her sister Mary, in focusing on Him, had chosen the better part.

Lord, I don't mean to get all caught up in rules and worrying and planning in regard to the Ash Wednesday fast. But as You Yourself put it, the flesh is weak.


LarryD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeannette said...

That Gospel always makes me laugh; it's soooo obvious that Martha is older, and that was the 9,732nd time they'd had that argument. And God the Son didn't want to get sucked into the middle of the latest round of a 23 year old fight between two sisters.

For the record, I'm the lazy younger sister.

eulogos said...

Actually I had no idea there were so many rules for different ages. The obligation ends at 60? That sounds as if it was written when 60 was old. I'll be 60 in a year and half. It is much easier for me -although not easy-for me to fast now then when I was younger. When I was younger , for many years I was always either pregnant or nursing or both. I was very hungry when I was nursing, and found I couldn't fast, as in, eat nothing all day, without feeling faint and dizzy. But the one main meal two smaller was workable, only I always worried about how small was small.

To be honest, I always served three meatless meals and ate very small amounts of two of them myself. I didn't try to involve my kids in it. Since their father was not religious at the time, and very against any idea of fasting, he would have ridiculed me , possibly in front of them, had I tried to tell any of them they had to fast. No one ever mentioned this to them at church or sunday school. We all abstained because I was cooking and making lunches, but no one else tried to fast.

If you make a mistake or do something by accident, it really isn't a sin, unless it is sort of accidentally on purpose...

Susan Peterson

Deirdre Mundy said...

I just had my own "making it too hard" moment. I was freaking out because I have to drive the kids to and from ballet today (45 mins each way) and my blood sugar was plummeting and how could I fast AND not get into a wreck.

And then I realized. There's no rule WHEN the three meals have to be. So if I eat my third meal right now, my blood sugar should get me to and from ballet. And then, if I'm stupid all evening, who cares?

I was freaking because I, too, was stuck in the 'dinner must be at dinner time' trap. So thank you for helping me get out of it with your post! =)