What do the season of Lent and Garmin GPS systems have in common?

If you have a Tom Tom or a Garmin GPS unit, you know that they tell you pretty accurately, turn by turn, how to get from point A to point B.  And you also know the one word that gets repeated over and over, any time you ‘veer off the path’ that it has set up for you. First it will tell you to make the first, legal U-turn.  And if you keep going, eventually it says THE word without any malice, any regret, any sense of judgment or any sense of instilling guilt in you the driver because you have taken a wrong turn.

How many of you know that word?


If here is were you are, (gesture to ‘here’) and here is where you are supposed to be, and THERE is where you are going – with infinite patience, the Garmin simply says: RECALCULATING.  You are not where you are supposed to be, so rather than retrace your steps (though sometimes it will have you do that) it just calmly figures out another way to get there.

It is not a bad image for this Ash Wednesday, nor for this season of Lent.  These days are meant to be an opportunity for us to do some RECALCULATING about the journey of life we are on, where we are, where we are supposed to be and where we are going.  It is not a time to ‘guilt’ ourselves into change, nor to berate ourselves for our lack of progress.  Heaven knows we all have made enough wrong turns over the course of a year’s or a life’s time, to know that we have some RECALCULATING to do.  Rather, like the voice from the Garmin that does not pass judgment, but calls for a change of direction, God does the same for us this Lenten season.

RECALCULATING.  Figuring out from where I am how I need to go to get to where I am called to be.  We know the three practices.  Fasting.  Prayer.  Almsgiving.

Pope Benedict says this about Fasting, which can have various motivations: “By rendering our table poorer, we learn to overcome selfishness in order to live in the logic of gift and love; by bearing some form of deprivation—and not just what is in excess—we learn to look away from our “ego,” to discover Someone close to us and to recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters. Fasting opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor.”

Prayer and almsgiving have the same object – opening us more deeply to the love of God and the love of neighbor.  Recalculating.  Rethinking how we are to live in harmony with our sisters and brothers.

So, if you happen to have a Garmin or Tom-Tom, then as often as you hear that magic word, let it put you back into the heart of this Lenten season.  And even if you don’t have one, I invite you to live with that one word in your heart and mind and prayer – into all the situations of this world – RECALCULATING…