Lent represents the formation of goodness

Published 10:14 am Friday, March 11, 2016

Sometime you might wish to read a book I learned from a number of years ago, and is well worth reading. I’m speaking about a book tracing the history of the world in the last 500 years. The book? The Shaping of the Modern World. The author? Crane Brinton.

I affirm that great, needful ideas and ideals do not die! This conviction I wish to apply to the present season of Lent. And whether one compresses the quest of a spiritual life into a defined, ordered number of days on a calendar (for instance, set by a church tradition), or think through with personal conscience and practice your own approach to a spiritual life, similar results are sought.

A primary goal — and we may wish to make it lifelong —- is the identification, appreciation, and commitment to the good. To invite goodness, and follow its characteristics, is a sign of a person of character. Affirm the good and do not harm may be our task.

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What Crane Brinton wrote in his book in 1950, I see as fresh as a stack of warm pancakes at Perkins. Or better yet, as fresh and warm as the daily kiss from my wife to start the day!

The grandeur of enduring pointers, like this one from Brinton’s book, is for today, tomorrow, and on and on. One source of notable positive change in our human journey is: “the perennial human capacity for being moved by high ethical ideals.” I believe that! Please make it a part of your philosophy; a fine place to encourage such a conviction is not necessarily in Lent, but it certainly can be a major aspiration.

A truth in the Bible’s book of Romans, 12:6, is: “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given us.” Nice thought!

There are cycles in nature as there are in each life. A recent television special had the seemingly impossible story of flying. It was the film footage of the migration of the Monarch butterflies that make their journey through Minnesota to certain territories in Mexico. Figure that out. And then they will make their way back for the summer. I’ll leave it to the science teachers at the local high school to make it a student’s project. What are the dynamics, the urges, the rotation of the earth, the seasons of climate change — what is behind the flight of the butterflies?

To each of us, consider (maybe start with writing a journal), what are the — call them miracle stages, or transitions in our lives? Can we attach some spiritual significance, a lesson of personal growth, or a reason for changes? Is it possible that identifying “stages” in our lives lead us to say: there is someone bigger than us who is our silent partner? Is there not goodness in your pathway?

In conclusion, I think of the recent death of my friend, David Plantikow, who I knew from attending Christ Episcopal Church in Austin — a person who radiated a serene goodness. In the liturgy printed in the bulletin of January 2, 2016, are these words:

“When I must leave you for a little while,

Please do not grieve and shed wild tears

And hug your sorrow to you

Through the years,

But start out bravely with a gallant smile;

And for my sake and in my name,

Live on and do all things the same,

Feed not your loneliness on empty days,

But fill each waking hour in useful ways,

Reach out your hand in comfort and in cheer

And in turn I will comfort you and hold you near;

And never, never be afraid to die,

for I am waiting for you in the sky!”

There are many metaphors and figures of speech that fortify our lives in the present, and a hope of goodness that has no end.