The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 3, 2000 Issue
Renew 2000

Lent invites us to make covenants

God entered into a covenant with us and we should now do so with others

By Tom Rinkoski

My 17-year-old son Brian is teaching me about cruisin' music. First turn up the volume. Second, turn up the "Bass" all the way. Good cruisin' music always has a strong bass line. Contrary to the music column a couple pages over from this one (by Charlie Martin) words are significant, but not drastically important. Crusin' music has to be able to make you want to bounce on the seats and have fun.

When it was still home to Motown Records, I did a few years of growing up in Detroit. Cruising Woodward Avenue was a time-honored religious ritual. Cruisin' meant having The Supremes and The Temptations blaring on your radio, bouncing off the fins of your '57 Chevy. Later, I cruised Route 66. I used to know a lot about cruisin, then I got old.

Maybe it's a guy thing, but I grew up counting on the bond between a man and his car. I hope it doesn't sound irreligious, but when God reminds Abraham of his covenant in Sunday's first reading (Gn 9:8), he describes the sort of relationship one had with one's car. When I eyed the white '63 Mercury Meteor I got from my mom I said, quoting Genesis, "You will be my car and I will be your driver." Today cars seemed to be just transportation. In those days we had a relationship in our cars.

On Austin City Limits, I heard Clint Black sing "When I Said I Do." It was a beautiful piece (even though it could not be considered cruisin' music) all about his relationship with his wife, which she sang as a duet with him. "When I said I do/I meant that I will/ till 'til the end of all time/Be faithful and true/devoted to you/That's what I had in mind/when I said I do." (D'lectrified! CD, RCA).

Marriage is the best story we have on this earth of God's covenant, bar none. When I married Theresa, 23 years ago, I promised her that I would be there for her always, when things were going well, as well as when things were falling apart. I asked her to be the light of God for me, as I hoped she would see the light of God in me. I publicly declared that ours would be a sacred relationship as well as a deep friendship. It is.

Our country has reduced marriage to a contract, a collection of terms, clauses and performance requirements. Most of us probably approach Lent that way - as a sort of spiritual license renewal period where the church is merely the Divine Department of Motor Vehicles.

I signed a contract with Best Buy when I purchased my washing machine. In exchange for my credit card number, I received a Maytag Performa. I am almost at the end of my lease contract with Saturn. This particular contract is seven pages long and still has enough loopholes to safely drive the car through. The wedding vows I recited to Theresa were shorter, but will last longer than a Saturn.

Marriage is not a contract; it is covenant just like God's (see Genesis). You don't make a covenant with the guy who sells you a car. God made us a promise that he would love us like a family. This is where it all begins. He is our mother and father, brother and sister. He wants to love us intimately like a husband and wife. Husbands and wives who are making it together know the pain and the possibility of what a covenant relationship is all about. Listen to the homily of their lives.

In church on Sunday, I had the blessing of watching a younger couple sitting across from me. A young girl, probably about four years-old danced to an opening number that with a strong drumbeat declared God is mighty. Looked like she believed it. But this couple across the aisle from me, religiously held hands the whole service. Behavior counts. Signs show interior attitudes. Beside your rings, how do people know that you are married?

Do you recall how at the end of A Christmas Carol Scrooge vows to keep Christmas all year? He shouts it out for all to hear. That's what a covenant is all about. God's promise to be a family together is a Christmas gift that we need to keep on opening all year. Renew your covenantal strength. Make an open-ended promise to someone in your family for the 40 days of Lent. Promise that you will spend 15 minutes with them each week. Promise that you will do one volunteer activity together this Lent. Promise that you will go out and play once a week.

When you make the promise, give them a sign, just like God gave Noah the rainbow as a sign. The sign of your Lenten promise can be a friendship bracelet, a picture or a ring.

This week's word is sponsion. Let me know if you know what it means. E-mail at [email protected]

(Rinkoski is the Green Bay Diocese's Family Life director.)

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