Finally, go for high spiritual impact. That is, identify and practice faithfully just one really magnificent goal for your personal conversion this Lent. I say conversion and not "personal improvement" lest anyone interpret the call to spiritual discipline as a chance to lose weight or quit smoking! What Lent demands of us is to look into our vicious, slothful and petty nature and challenge it with the full prophetic force of the Gospel. A well-intentioned person who stacks up a dozen goals for personal change but accomplishes few or none of them is not a better person at the end of Lent. He is more scattered, less disciplined and under a the illusion of false piety thinking that he is doing something holy by multiplying activities without transforming his heart. In contrast, the one who targets his habit of petty backbiting with a shock-and-awe campaign of generosity toward those he finds disagreeable is the one who receives a blessing from the Lord because he acts like John the Baptist who Jesus said "took the Kingdom by storm." Any mature person will know that a single, firm and effective intention to convert one's heart is worth more than a thousand acts of superficial piety.
It caught my attention because I tend to be the kind of person who needs a spread sheet in order to keep track of all of the things I feel I should be doing during Lent. Could it be possible to pick only ONE thing and just focus on doing that ONE thing really well and actually have a fruitful Lent? Maybe even more fruitful than ever before?
And what if that one thing had to do with complaining? The way I see it, there are really three levels of complaining:
1. Verbal - yada, yada, yada - you get my drift. Probably the easiest of the three to stop.
2. Non-verbal - okay so maybe one has achieved the ability to keep one's mouth shut and not let that complaint slip out, but what about the roll of the eyes, the stomp of the foot, or more subtle: the blanket that is wrapped tightly around hunched-over shoulders that tells everyone how COLD you are. There are still many ways to complain without ever saying a word.
3. Once a person has mastered not complaining with words and not complaining with body gestures or postures, there still remains another form of complaining. What about complaining in your heart and head? What about those thoughts that still pop into your head, or worse yet, your heart that you'd really like to let out of your body somehow, but don't? Don't those still do damage? What if this Lent, one was to focus on stopping those thoughts and feelings from ever even taking root in the heart? Wouldn't that make for a fruitful outcome? Think of all the prayer, sacrifice and grace that that might take to become a reality? Wow.
Of course, I'm not sure I'm up to the challenge, but it is definitely something to pray about :) No matter what I pick, the above paragraph from Fr. Thomas really got me thinking about narrowing my focus and really concentrating on just one or two things. Now, if only I could decipher which ones those are supposed to be....