Wandering into the Sweetness of Lent

baking cookiesRecently, I sat down with one of my favorite Gospel passages, Luke 6:27–38. One phrase caught my attention: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:38)

This phrase brought to mind a vivid memory of my mother teaching me to make chocolate chip cookies. “You only pack brown sugar—never flour or other ingredients,” she advised as she pressed my small hands into a measuring cup containing the brown sugar. You never pack anything but brown sugar.

This image dovetailed into a memory of a friend recounting the first time she made chocolate chip cookies. She looked at the recipe and thought there was way too much sugar in the recipe, so she cut it back to a few tablespoons. Although it seemed like the recipe required an overabundance of sugar, without all of the sugar, the cookies did not taste good and the ingredients did not bond well. The cookies were completely inedible.

I returned again to the passage: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Yet another cookie memory popped up. “God’s love is like the smell of chocolate chip cookies cooking. You know that smell? Mmmm…it permeates everything!” said Fr. Michael in what was fondly known by the undergrads as his “Chocolate Chip Cookie Homily.”

Was I hungry as I read this Gospel? It seems likely! I think there was more to it, though. Sometimes, when I sit down to pray, I encounter distractions and they are just that—distractions. They tend to leave me dry as if I am wandering through a desert. At other times, though, these wanderings in prayer actually reveal an oasis.

In the memories that arose as I read and re-read this Gospel passage, there was a message to be heard: God cannot be outdone in generosity. Like the brown sugar that was packed down and flowing over, Christ’s love is poured out for us in abundance and flowing over. His sacrificial love is the essential ingredient. We taste of its sweetness. We smell the permeating aroma of sweetness.

As I reflect on my experience in prayer, a few questions arise that will surely shape my Lenten journey:

  • How might I extend the sweet aroma of Christ’s love to those I meet?
  • In what areas of my life can I extend mercy and forgiveness, even though it might seem completely countercultural and even counterintuitive to do so?
  • Where in my life can I hold judgment and let God be the judge?
  • How, as St. Ignatius said, can I live so generously as “to give and not to count the cost”?

Image by Michael Siebert from Pixabay.

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Rebecca Ruiz
Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She has been trained as an Ignatian spiritual director through Fairfield University. Rebecca is on staff at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and previously served for a decade and a half at the Diocese of Arlington in refugee resettlement. She strives, as St. Ignatius taught, to see God in all things and do “all things for the greater glory of God.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting & sweetly inspiring. On the flip side, I’d experienced Family day w/end with a letter to say that I would not have the job. To me it was crystal clear sign of injustice and more. It was no use arguing with the HR & the union president, for the decision was firm. As a faithful catholic & a good human being,true to herself,the news was a rude shock,unfairness & all of it that is negative,mean & despicable-during the Lenten season especially. Unable to grasp what has transpired as I read over the letter, the thoughts of those colleagues,my enemies,came rushing into my mind.I questioned why me only & not others who are manipulative & cunning. It was a useless stroke of my expression of anger,frustration,disappointment et al. Yet,the question remains: why am I being victimized every so often? I pray fervently,am a church goer too.It ie np wonder why certain people Stop praying after being constantly experiencing worse than what I do encounter.

  2. Hi Andrea,
    I wish someone had transcribed Fr. Michael’s homily before he passed. Every year, he would give it at a morning Mass right before lunch and he was so descriptive that one could almost smell the cookies baking. In fact, we might have actually been smelling actual chocolate chip cookies baking – I wouldn’t have put it past him to coordinate that homily with the dining hall right down the hill from the chapel! There were always warm chocolate chip cookies ready on the lunch line after that Mass. It was such a memorable analogy of being enveloped in God’s love.

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