Giving Up Throwing Out!

Yesterday I submitted that perhaps the most appropriate penitential act this Lent, possibly the one most effective in terms of heartfelt conversions is to give up giving up.  To take a conscious stand, that is, against the many disempowering woes of our world forever telling us to keep quiet and stop fighting in the back seat. Giving up giving up means retiring our everyday resignation and putting our hopeful participation in the Kingdom back to work.

A little self-reflection might show that you, like me, often give up on all kinds of important things: climate change, poverty, consumerism, bully politicians, creeping incivility, etc.  Things too big, too bad and too ugly for little old me to settle.  It’s best not get upset.  In this way we find ourselves easily settling for the extremely upsetting.

Once recognized, this practiced technique of self-defeat can begin to be countered.  And no better time than Lent, that great season of conversion, of new spring leaves budding forth and begging to be turned over.

Of course, given our general proclivity towards passivity, there are innumerable ways to give up giving up. Because our shoulders are, at least in some areas, permanently shrugged, any little plow we put them to will help return them to their natural position.  But if perchance you can’t think of a single instance of giving up that you might give up this Lent, let me humbly suggest the following. You could always give up throwing out.

Again, given our general dexterity at discarding, it might seem too lofty a Lenten aspiration to give up all throwing out. So let’s stick to one sub-section of our trashcan: food.

According to a 2019 report, “a whopping 58 per cent of all food produced in Canada — 35.5 million tonnes — is lost or wasted” per year, with a price tag of 49 billion dollars. Canadian consumers, you and I, on average throw out one quarter of food we buy, placing ourselves amongst the most talented tossers in the whole, wide world. The ecological heartburn of all this prodigality is “the equivalent of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by 41 million cars driven on the road continuously for a year”

Traditional Catholicism presents us with Lent as a long reminder of the mortal sacrifice of Jesus on behalf of humanity.  While, of course, we highlight the divinity of the love behind this, we must not press so hard as to eclipse the natural goodness of it.  For Jesus–Lamb of God, Bread of Life and Spiritual Drink—in his life-giving death simply, albeit gloriously, reiterates the nature of all food.  To eat is to live off the sacrifice of other life. This is most obvious when it comes to meat and its inevitable slaughter of animals.  However, even vegans thrive on the cutting short of vegetal life.  Food is the most precious, unconditional giving of one being to another.

Thus, to throw food out is to snub the sacrifice.  It is to make a joke of the cross, shared by Jesus with other life-gifting creatures.  It is to exhibit the grossest of ingratitudes.   It is an act that does direct violence to the spirit of Easter.

To give up throwing food out is to give thanks for the life-giving gift of sacrifice that sustains us, body and soul, every blessed day, inside Lent and out.  To give up throwing out is to shout “Alleluia! Resurrection is real, for life given need not end in landfill futility, but in the vitality of the faithful gratefully nourished.”  As we have been given, so are we to give, but our giving will get positively nowhere until we bravely give up the blasphemy of throwing out

Greg Kennedy, SJ is assigned to the spiritual exercises ministry at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario. Novalis will publish Greg's book - “Reupholstered Psalms” - on March 1, 2020.

  • Ronald Perron
    Posted at 08:59h, 08 March Reply

    Greg, Thank you for your comments about throwing out food and the lack of respect for the sacrifice, the life given. Ronald Perron, s.j.

  • Barbara
    Posted at 20:26h, 08 March Reply

    For sure one of your better developed meditations

    Specifically the metaphor around the unconditional giving of sustenance.and life . It will take me time to live out of that level of reverence but I welcome the direction your writing points me in

  • Paul Panaretos
    Posted at 07:27h, 09 March Reply

    A delicious challenge! Thanks, Greg.

  • David Shulist, SJ
    Posted at 18:49h, 09 March Reply

    Greg you have not wasted a word there and thankfully much to chew on.

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