These days, if you want to record a program on TV, you can simply press a button to make it happen. Not so in the last century. Long before devices like DVR’s and DVD’s arrived on the scene, VCR’s (Video Cassette Recorders) were the only means available to record a show. Video cassettes (now antiques) were able to record 2,4 or 6 hours of programs depending on the speed selected. The fastest speed (2 hours) would yield the highest quality and was just right for most movies. Blank tapes were readily available in stores, and the wise recordist would have several on hand for new shows, whereas the unwise would not. In either case, a decision would sometimes have to be made to delete a program to make room for a new one. This process, in and of itself, was difficult. Giving up one program to make room for another required careful deliberation. The mechanical clumsiness of the process that would determine just where the new material would fit, along with the anguish of deleting a favorite program would often result in scrapping the idea altogether.
If we think of ourselves as vessels, and more particularly as videocassettes, we can think in terms of our capacity. As a glass full of liquid, some portion must be emptied to make room for a fresh pouring. As a videocassette full of content, some portion must be deleted to receive new material. Freeing up space is good; using the newly found space is even better.
When we abstain from something for Lent, it involves a degree of sacrifice. Chocolate, Alcohol and Social Networking currently are at the top of the list of things to give up in the 21st Century. Cheese is also consistently in the Top Ten (for some unknown reason). Students oftentimes list School (perhaps for obvious reasons). Abstinence, taken alone, can be worthwhile as a sacrificial offering. If we take what is “freed up” in terms of time and money, and “record over” the newly found space, we can give our Lenten sacrifices the wings of eagles.
Just think of it: the thirty minutes (10 minutes each for Alcohol, Chocolate and Social Networking), taken together or separately, can free up time and money for prayer and giving alms. Cheese may be harder to quantify but has value nonetheless, with the possible exception of the aerosol variety.
Giving up goodies, (as we were taught as children) and fasting from anger and bitterness (a more “adult” concept) might seem mutually exclusive. Some would suggest that we “put away the things of childhood” in favor of a more mature approach to Lent. Instead of an either/or construct, a both/and model of sacrifice might afford a better balance between “the real and the ideal”. What is “earned” in the process of fasting can be spent as new capital in the service of God and neighbor.
As we enter into the Lenten season, let us offer the yield of our sacrifices for the glory of God, and the benefit of our neighbor.