The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments are well underway. Did you make good choices in your brackets? Much drama has already taken place with upset victories by the underdog, and the loss of last-second shots have ushered in the emotion of defeat as seen on the exhausted players’ faces. This is “March Madness” in which a victory propels the winning team forward to the next round, closer to the “Final Four” and the National Championship, while just one loss sends the loser packing to go home.
We may have experienced a bit of “March Madness” in our own spiritual lives; not on the basketball court, but in this season of Lent. To fast on Ash Wednesday perhaps was more difficult than we initially thought. Was it embraced, or was it the case of encountering “spiritual madness” that felt like an absolute grind? Let us now get ready to fast on Good Friday. What about abstaining from meat on Fridays? Maybe it was not only an adjustment over the past few weeks but a case of “spiritual madness” too that, on the positive side, led to growth through self-denial. What type of “madness,” if any, have we experienced this month? With whom?
We may have also encountered the “March Madness” of the time change, of Daylight Savings Time. Have you and I adjusted yet? Are we caught up on our sleep? The good news is that it is getting lighter out later, and spring has now come.
But this “March Madness” is temporary, and it precedes the “April Gladness” of Easter. All of this preparation, especially the spiritual kind, whether it be through prayer, fasting and abstinence, almsgiving, or acts of charity, will make the experience of the “April Gladness” at Easter much more worthwhile. While the “March Madness” of Lent is 40 days long as it bleeds into April, the “April Gladness” of Easter is 50 days long, which means a longer and greater time of celebration as we prepare once again to celebrate Jesus’ eternal victory over suffering, sin, Satan, and death.
May the “March Madness” we encounter inspire us to persevere. St. Paul says, “rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer…We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 12:12, 5:3-5). We know that as we move ever closer to Holy Week, there is not an Easter Sunday without a Good Friday. In the meantime, may this “March Madness” remind us to appreciate the “April Gladness” of the Easter season that awaits us with great joy. Amen.
– Fr. Jeff