Learning from an Unlikely Source
Picture this. A French village in the late 1950’s. It is governed by a mayor who takes his job and religion very seriously. The doctrine of “giving up” something for lent is required in mass, rules are mandated, and conformity expected regardless of strife.
Life in this little town is turned upside down when a young woman and her daughter arrive during the Lenten season to open up a chocolate shop! During Lent? Impossible’! When the mayor finds out that her child is out of wedlock and she does not intend to go to church he “campaigns” for the town to boycott her shop and ostracize her. Oh, but what temptation she stirs up amidst the towns people with the window of her Chocolaterie brimming with bit size morsels to sin with! Despite the mayors urging that she is evil, she nevertheless, helps an abused wife, a couple who have lost their marital intimacy, and reunites a grandmother and grandson. She even helps the mayor.
The new residents teach us to open our eyes to different ways of living, and of kindness outside of the boundaries of religious doctrine, society’s acceptability and one’s own comfort zone. Through her story and the story of this village we learn about what God truly wants from us during the Lenten season. The movie, Chocolat, ends with the young priest of the village presenting his homily:
“I am not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to
speak of the miracle of our Lord’s divine transformation? Not really, no.
I don’t want to talk about His divinity. I would rather talk about his humanity.
I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on earth. His kindness, His tolerance…
Listen, here is what I think, I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by
what we don’t do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude.
I think, we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and
who we include.”
– Per Andre, from the movie Chocolat
How did you spend this Lenten season? Did you give up something? Could you hardly wait until Easter so you can eat that chocolate Easter bunny, pasta or bread and breathe a sigh of relief that it was over? Did you surrender something: control, judgement, denial or maybe your time? Did it bring you closer to God or feeling like you’ve failed?
I believe the purpose of the Lenten season is not so much the act of denial or surrender but in what the outcome of such sacrifice is – to provide more focus on Christ’s life and less focus on our earthly life. It is to experience a transformation of our soul, bringing us strength and closeness to God than we have ever experienced.
It is my prayer that this Lenten season and Easter found you living in Christ’s humanity, His kindness, His tolerance, “measuring goodness not by what we denied, resisted or excluded but by what we embraced, created and who we included.”