By Sr. Judy Gomila, MSC
My family was in town from Maryland to go on a cruise. The day before the departure, our extended family met at Harrah’s buffet. We were thirteen husbands/wives, cousins, in-laws, sisters/brothers at a long table. There was lots of conversation, laughter, picture showing and immediate photo opps…and eventually eating!
This was my first venture to such a huge buffet with foods to entice every taste bud. Before picking up a plate, I surveyed the scene of colorful, well organized and labeled offerings. It was the Saturday before the First Sunday of Lent and I surely did not want to over-eat nor did I want to waste food.
Several of the experiences and sights around the steam tables have developed into insights for this blog. From the beginning I paced myself, selecting salad offerings and enjoying conversation with family back at table. Eventually, I returned to the large outer rim buffet knowing what meat, starch and veggies I would select in moderation. I returned for a simple dessert – a McKenzie’s look alike/taste alike “turtle” with a cup of coffee.
That buffet was a graced lesson… slow down, survey the options, make meaningful choices. Even after all these years in religious life, I sometimes jump into Lent without a lot of forethought – following the laws of fast and abstinence to the extreme. I am ashamed to say that frequently, three or four weeks into Lent, those good intentions have faded.
That next day, the First Sunday of Lent, I spent time yearning to pace myself. “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.” (Ps.86) At the buffet, instead of devouring food non-stop, I appreciated the opportunity to catch-up with folks – to offer a listening ear, a word of encouragement or enjoy a mutual memory. Perhaps that is a form of alms-giving at its best, giving the gift of genuine presence. (But by all means, use those Rice Bowls knowing that what you sacrifice can change lives.) Moderation (without excess) and balance (busyness with serenity; community with solitude; the ordinary with adventure, etc.) are essential in all facets of our interior and exterior lives. In hindsight, I made some wise and delicious choices that were healthy for my body and so it seems – nourishing for my soul at the start of this Sacred Season. How sweet it is!
One last thought from the meandering buffet steam tables. Each return required a clean plate. The whole season of Lent is that call to conversion – to take a clean plate, to let go of sin, to be our best selves to approach Easter joy! “Accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! … enable the power of his love to transform your lives, too.“ Pope Francis, Easter, 2013
Sr. Judith Gomila, MSC is a Marianite Sister of Holy Cross. She holds a Masters in Theology and Religious Studies from St. Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. Sr. Judy has served the Church in education/evangelization/mission outreach for 50 years. Currently she coordinates the Public Relations and Communication ministry for the Marianite Congregation and is co-director of the Marianite Associates, an organization for lay women and men who identify with Holy Cross spirituality. For more about this blogger, click here.