A new word has entered the vocabulary of all basketball fans, and in the that of the Knicks fans, in particular. It is the word Linsanity. There in nowhere to go that this word does not surface. This stems from the transformation of a team by the emergence of Jeremy Lin. It appears, from what I can gather, his play has saved the Knicks year and the job of the head coach. Just a short time ago Jeremy was riding the bench and he was at the end of the bench as well. His basketball career was in ashes. Then out of the blue he was called on to play. The rest, as we all know, is history. Out of the ashes of his basketball life, a new life has sprung. With this new life the hopes and dreams on many are renewed. The Knicks have now a good chance to go to the play-offs and even do some damage. In that second season, anything can and does happen. Linsanity has become a reality that has to be to be faced. It will only be a matter of time before Linsanity will pass. It will live on, however, only in the memories of those many, many basketball fans who were lucky enough to experience this recent phenomenon. This is the nature of the game. It is the nature of fame. “What is seen is transitory, what is unseen lasts forever", scripture is want to remind us.
This time each year, however, we are caught up in different reality. This reality is not confined to any one group. This reality reaches out to, literally, billions. It is called Lentsanity. Lentsanity, when entered into, results in life changing. The practices that come with Lentsanity have with them, the guarantee of change. This reality leads not to just another season, it leads to a life beyond. We will be lead into a life beyond our present human experience. Our new reality, is a reality beyond human imagination. This new way of living cones at a price. Our Lenten journey leads us into the desert experience of failure, rejection, alienation. In the solitude of the desert we have to face ourselves as we really are. We, like Jesus, will be confronted by the Devil. Another name for the Devil is the divider. The Devil wants us to reject our essential goodness. We will be tempted to concentrate on what is wrong, rather than to celebrate the goodness, The Godliness within. Our sins, our failures, all that exists in our shadow are that which allows us to leave behind guilt, fear and shame, so as to really experience the length and depth of the mercy of God. What happens in our desert experience mirrors that of the chosen people of the Old Testament. In the desert they were formed as God’s own, not through their great successes but through failure after failure. The desert was their school of spiritual formation. As it was with the first chosen people, so it is with us who are the new chosen people.
Success, achievement, power, popularity, pleasure and control for a time will satisfy us. The only sad part is that this feeling does not last. Then what do we do? We go after a greater, more intense feeling than we had previously. It goes on and on. The result is not what we wanted or desired, but the opposite. How often in grasping for everything do we end up with nothing. No inner happiness, no peace of mind and no nourishing love relationships. We in our efforts to avoid the desert experience, which is of its essence life giving, we create a place where only death and destruction rule. This is repeated again and again. There is that hope that this time it is going to be different. Is It? NO, it is not. Doing the same thing expecting different results, is the definition of insanity. WE need a way back to an authentic human life. As we accept what is offered by Lentsanity we return to sane behavior. Is this going to happen easily and without a struggle? No way. Never did, never will. We have to be somehow shocked. We need a basin of cold water right in the face so as to awaken to the loss, to the destruction. We must be confronted that our lives are a real mess. All of our great dreams are just lying there in ashes. All seems and the operative word is seems. All is not lost. Where there is an end there is also a new beginning. As we enter into the depths of our Lentsanity, where we face those actions which triggered the ash making ,we are guided throughout with the gentle, encouraging lens of The Paschal Mystery. We will be lead to see and eventually accept that death is NOT the end, it is the BEGINNING of something new and better. There is then, life in ashes. So that when our life is in ashes, a new life, a new way of living is on its way. There is in hidden deep within the ashes, a warm coal, an eternal light the discovery of both is why we enter the realm of LENTSANITY, again, again and again.
Over these many years I have relayed the following incident more than once. So here I go, one more time. One Ash Wednesday a priest was distributing ashes to the community. Everything was going along as usual. Each parishioner came forward and presented their foreheads to receive the ashes. One person however came forward and changed things up. He presented his tongue, as if he was to receive the Eucharist. This rather well know priest, at that time, promptly made the sing of the cross with the ashes, on his tongue. What a shock that must have been on the part of the recipient? How many of us would go to receive the ashes if we were required to receive them on the tongue? Yet, I would like to suggest that practice would bring home way more clearly and dramatically, the essential message of Ash Wednesday and the season it ushers in.
Ever taste ashes? I have many times. To tell the truth, I have never acquired a taste for them. I have related before how it was my job while back in Ireland, to start the fire in the morning. The night before they went to bed my parents would have banked down the fire. The plan was to have a few hot coals hidden in the ashes. I had to search through the ashes to find those coals. Then I had to go about building a fire from sometimes just one hot coal. I would get some paper and very dry kindling. In order to get a flame you had to blow on the little mound of hot coal, paper and kindling. Well when I blew, many, many times I blew on the ashes, rather than what I intended. Then the ashes would rise up and get on my face, would go up my nose, into my eyes and into my mouth. Not very appetizing, to say the least. The ashes were the result of the burning, the ending of something, that at one time, was alive and flourishing. Yet, hidden away amidst all that appeared to be lifeless, the fire of life and the source of light, was hidden. What a great simile, what a great paradigm for this time we are given to be the source of our transformation and transfiguration. I wonder whether you now agree there would be any great benefit into being shocked with ashes on the tongue.