Two dinners make mark in Lent

Ashes, palm frond and a cross on a purple background.
 on January 30, 2024

The scripture passages of Ash Wednesday get us pondering various aspects of our faith, as does the liturgical invitation to observe a holy Lent. I invite you to ponder and pray about them as you make your journey this Lent.

I remind us all that Lent, while about prayer and fasting and abstinence – the giving up of certain things – is about taking on things, too, that can affect others in a good way. I still recall the Lenten boxes, pyramids and cards with spaces for coins, a way of setting money aside to help others in need.

However, as is so often pointed out in scripture, all the prayers and ritual and everything “just right” in worship won’t matter if one neglects or hurts others due to such faith expressions.

Two stories: It was a Friday in Lent, 1979. My late wife Susan and I invited a couple over for dinner. Sue did up a lovely beef bourguignon dinner. She was a little anxious, as we didn’t know them well. When dinner was served, the fellow took one look and said, “I don’t eat meat in Lent.” Certain details have left me, except Susan quietly going to the kitchen to do up a pasta dish without the meat topping. I have never forgotten that hurtful moment. An action of caring takes precedence over any Lenten discipline. Please eat the meal innocently served.

Fast forward to Ash Wednesday 2018. My late wife Bonnie, tired after four nights in the hospital due to her cancer and home only a few days, wanted to make us Chinese food for dinner. How close I came to automatically responding, “But it is Ash Wednesday and I only have a little soup.” Maybe the dinner of Lent 1979 suddenly came to mind, for the words were not said. We enjoyed that night’s Chinese dinner together.

You see, Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day in 2018, and that dinner was Bon’s gift to me on what would be our last Valentine’s Day – and Ash Wednesday – together. It was a special gift, for she knew how much I enjoy Chinese food.

Caring and love are what are most important in God’s eyes.

A Lenten dinner in 1979, and then one in 2018. Each has left a mark, and each reminds me of what our Lenten disciplines are really to be about: growing in Christ’s love and living that love out. May we have a holy Lent. May Easter’s dawn touch our souls. Amen.

The Rev. Canon Greg Physick gave this reflection in 2022 at St. Paul, Lindsay, where he is the honorary assistant.


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