The Ice Cream Made Me Sick – An Explanation of Lent

The Ice Cream Made Me Sick – An Explanation of Lent

Last night, I traveled to a nearby parish to help with a First Confession service, that was also open to all parishioners. It was a beautiful evening, and I took advantage of the extra priests to go to Confession myself. While I was heading home, I thought, “Hey, it’s Mardi Gras! I’m not going to dance in the streets, but how about a Turtle Sundae, before Lent begins!” So, I pulled into a Culver’s on the way home.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit nauseous. I thought to myself, “I’m pretty much over that flu bug … do I still have it? Did I catch something else?” Then it dawned on me, “Oh yeah … I had ice cream last night.” You see, I have been away from junk food for a while, while doing Nineveh 90 for Life … at least 45 days. I’ve also stayed away from the “love of my life” – Bread (except for the actual love of my life – The Most Holy Eucharist). I noticed that even adding a little bread (usually, a hamburger) on Sundays during N90FL makes me a little queasy. In fact, adding any carbs on Sundays has the same result, since I have been avoiding carbs during N90FL.

Why am I talking about ice cream and carbs as we begin Lent? I believe it provides a great metaphor for what Lent is all about.

See? Prior to N90FL, and my abstinence from junk food and carbs, these things did not make me sick. In fact, I “craved” them. I’m not a doctor, but in my lifetime of studying the “science of diets,” I have come to understand a bit about how these things work.

Without getting too technical, we know that whatever we put in our body can become something our bodies then begins to crave. At an extreme, we can see this in such things as dangerous drugs, alcohol, and nicotine addictions. Even viewing porn shoots a chemical through the body that a person can become addicted to. Once we have these cravings, or even addictions, we begin to “order our lives” toward satisfying these strong cravings (or addictions). Some drug addicts justify stealing, or even murder, in order to get what they need to feed their addiction.

Moreover, this is not limited to substances that enter the body. We can also crave – or become obsessed with – the need for the newest gadget or biggest house or nicest car. We can also be obsessed with the need for ego-gratification … like being recognized, popular, esteemed and honored. Also, we can even find ourselves in a place where another person (or even a cause) in our life is the sole source of happiness for us. In essence, these things or honors or people then become our EVERYTHING. So, we turn to these as our “source(s) of happiness.” It’s no wonder why we then find ourselves depressed and empty when we can’t have our ice cream (or alcohol, etc.), or we didn’t receive that honor, or that person disappointed us.

Lent is a period of time to “detach” from those things that we have allowed to become, in essence, our god. Our god, in the sense that they have become the highest priority in our life. This isn’t about demonizing ice cream or a glass of wine or an honor we receive or loved ones in our life. This is about taking an honest look at how we may have allowed any of these to rank higher than God in our life.

While we are “detaching,” we are able to recognize how strong these things or honors or people or bad habits have laid hold of us. We groan as we MISS them. But, an interesting thing happens, which brings me back to my ice cream metaphor. The more we become detached from those things we “used” as the source(s) of happiness in our lives, the more they lose their strangle hold on us (enslave us in chains) and, in some cases, like the getting sick from ice cream, we can even develop an aversion to some of these things that we may be better off dispensing with in our lives, especially if they threaten becoming a higher priority than God.

So, while I have been avoiding foods that are bad for me, I have been embracing foods that are more healthy for me, and developing a desire for these “better things.” This is also what happens in the spiritual life. When we are stuck (addicted) to the junk food of worldliness, we will often have an aversion to the healthy food (so to speak) of the Divine Life. We complain how busy we are and so we just don’t have time to pray, and that rosary seems to weigh 500 pounds, while we are immersed in our “every other care” than God.

Taking this time, during Lent, to disconnect from our worldliness and concentrate on connecting with God, reorders our disordered lives. We spend less time feeding our lives with base and ignoble things, and more time focused upon “higher and deeper things.” After a period of time, we become more desirous of these higher things, and detached from those base things that were “ruling our life.”

Now, unchained from everything that we put ahead of God, we are now chained by love to Jesus and Mary:

“Thus set free, we are bound to Jesus and Mary not by compulsion and force like galley-slaves, but by charity and love as children are to their parents. ‘I shall draw them to me by chains of love’ said God Most High speaking through the prophet.” -St. Louis de Montfort

There you have it … Lent, in a nutshell.

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