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Playing during Lent

February 19, 2013

This Week, CBS’ 60 Minutes program had a feature on Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, for which the US has provided $275 million in funding. It has protected Israel from most of the missiles fired from Gaza. However, I wonder if more investment in playground equipment in Gaza might prove to be an enhanced missile defense system.

Abuna Manuel was the Roman Catholic Priest of Gaza, in the Palestinian Territories. On a trip to Gaza I questioned why, amidst all the devastation of that place, with life-threatening shortages of food, medicine and clean water—let alone freedom and work—he requested from World Vision money for playground equipment. The Catholic school is one of the most respected schools in Gaza.  But his request for playground equipment seemed frivolous and secondary. I’ll never forget his reply.“The children of Gaza have lost their capacity (and even the places) to play. Play is the pathway to laughter, laughter leads to joy, and joy opens up the gateway to hope. Without hope, we have no life. When we feel we have no life, people will do desperate and destructive things. We need to help the children of Gaza to play again.” Needless to say, the Catholic School of Gaza was given a great set of playground equipment.

(Beyond Duty: A Passion for Christ, A Heart for Mission (2013: 44-45). Available on Amazon US, UK, India, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATraditionally, the Church doesn’t say “hallelujah” during Lent. However, that restraint is intended to deepen our anticipation of the Great Hallelujah that is yet to come on Easter. “For the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the Cross.” (Hebrews 12:2). The disciplines of Lent serve to open our ears to the voice of God, and to hear creation’s songs of praise. Maybe it’s not only ok but essential to play some during Lent. After all, isn’t the point to take our selves less seriously, and God more so?

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