Most folks think of Mardi Gras as an escape from spiritual life – an opportunity to get a little crazy before we turn our attention to the hard work of fasting, denial and discipleship. After all, it’s so much easier to be somber on Ash Wednesday when you’re still hung over from the night before.
But I think Mardi Gras has a unique spirituality all its own. Mardi Gras is a chance to live outside ourselves – to taste a world where sin, Death and evil don’t exist. At Mardi Gras the rules of normal life don’t apply: jobs are put on hold, social conventions are ignored and diet restrictions are lifted. The party goes long into the night because time is disregarded. There are no rich or poor, no black or white – only a People sharing a common joy and refusing to be strangers to one another. It’s freedom. It’s a party. It’s a glimpse of heaven.
But it’s only a glimpse – and because we know we still live in a world that’s bounded by sin and Death, our glimpse rings hollow and leaves us yearning for more. Mardi Gras is a stark reminder that our lives are plagued by a certain emptiness, a nagging ‘not yet’ that keeps us from settling down. It nudges us on towards our Lenten pilgrimage and keeps our spirits agile enough to follow Jesus long after the buzz wears off.
During this season of Mardi Gras – no matter how good the party is – I challenge you to wrestle with the tension between today’s celebration and tomorrow’s Lenten journey that will ultimately lead us to the horror of Good Friday.