I like rules. I don’t mean that I always follow the rules, but I like to know what they are. Rules tell me what I am supposed to do. They are the guidelines for how I should act. They make me feel safe. I find comfort in knowing the rules and when to follow them. Maybe that makes me a goody-goody to you, but it is a part of who I am and how I deal with the world.
Parents usually set the rules in concrete. When I was younger, I took everything my parents said as gospel. I was that little kid on the playground that thought my mom knew everything. Her rules were the rules, and I believed everyone should follow them. So during Lent, when she said we kept our promise every day of Lent, I agreed. I didn’t even think twice about it until one of my friends at my Catholic elementary school said that you didn’t have to keep your promise on Sundays. To little me, this was profanity! Blasphemy! Terror! Of course, I rejected this kid’s statement. I didn’t even question the reasoning behind it, I just took the rules I had always followed and stuck to them. Those rules were safe. I went on living my life thinking everyone else was keeping their lenten promises wrong. As more of my friends began eating chocolate and watching TV on Sundays, I continued to keep the TV off and soda put away.
It never made sense to me that God would allow a cheat day once a week. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of Lent? Well, I have stopped taking every word of my mother’s as the undisputed truth. Not because she isn’t right – but because I have my own mind and she is only human and can make mistakes just like the rest of us. So within the last year, I started asking around about this whole Sunday cheat day thing. I was curious about why it seemed to moral to everyone else. It turns out, I had the wrong idea about why Sundays are exempt from our Lenten promises. But Sundays are meant for rejoicing in the Lord and that trumps our promises. I didn’t think that maybe the reason people took Sundays out of the equation was because they were observing the Sabbath as God’s day. I was thinking in the terms of rules, so my reasoning made sense. I needed some perspective. So now I don’t think of eating chocolate on Sundays as cheating, I think of it as not the most important thing.
But I still don’t skip Sundays in my promises.
Why? Well, I was raised not to. I don’t think it is wrong to exempt Sundays, it just isn’t for me. If I were to do it, after growing up without, it would feel like cheating. It would feel wrong. Instead I have starting thinking of my promise differently on Sundays. I know that I am supposed to be offering my humility up to God all the other 40 days, but on Sundays I have started to offer up my sacrifice as a celebration. While I might feel held back and stunted by my promise during the week, Sunday is my day to refresh my thinking about my promise. Instead of focusing on keeping my promise, I focus on how my product serves rather than restricts. This is how I have evolved my dedication in Lent, but it is purely mine. I don’t know if anyone else has spent any reflection on this topic, but feel free to leave a comment if you have! I would really like to hear from fellow Catholics about how you handle Sundays in Lent!