For most Lenten disciplines of giving up coffee, chocolate, cable TV or chewing gum -- such as the case may be -- Easter Sunday and the days that follow are times when we enjoy anew the cherished pleasure which we resolved to avoid forty days before. This longed-for return to the delight from which we fasted can have a lasting spiritual effect if we savor the fruit from our Lenten season.
How can this be? Perhaps it was difficult to attend the St. Patrick's Day party at the office and refrain from a shamrock cookie. Maybe we wondered about what happened on our favorite TV shows. The tension between what we desire in a given moment and resisting the temptation to indulge ourselves is a healthy one. For what we "practice" in Lent we may have the opportunity to "perform" in the months that follow. At first it may be difficult to pass up dessert or TV or coffee but we may notice that with each opportunity our resolve grows a bit stronger. This will serve us well when the time comes that we have to forgo a certain pleasure for a reason other than that of a freely-chosen discipline during Lent.
Imagine having unexpected company which might preclude watching a favorite TV show or perhaps realizing that there is only one chocolate chip cookie left in the jar as you are packing lunch for yourself and your spouse. If our Lenten disciplines have served us well, then we will be able to be gracious about things when they do not go our way. We will be able to welcome the unexpected visitor as though it is not at all inconvenient; we will gladly give away the last cookie without feeling a sense of regret. It's not really about the TV show or the cookie, it's about graciousness. And if we "succeed" in our Lenten resolutions to give-up this or that then we will, indeed, have a gift that keeps on giving.