The 41st Act

The 41st Act


March 1st is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.


As a general rule, Lent is a time of penitence and giving things up.  In ‘The Olden Days’, as my children would have it, people would forego meat and sweet foods, walk around in sackcloth and ashes, fast and pray.  They would be made aware of their unworthy sinfulness and spend hours in the confessional.


Nowadays we don’t go so much for the sackcloth and ashes, preferring to go along the easy route of lowering our intake of alcohol or chocolate.  I can understand why, it’s not much fun walking around all day with a black cloud of sinfulness over your head.  But of course, that’s not the point.  Lent isn’t a standalone season and it only makes sense when connected with the forgiveness that comes from Easter and a man on a cross.


The other way of approaching Lent is not to give something up, but take something up.  In Barwick School each class is challenging themselves to do 40 acts of kindness (if you fancy it you can sign up at  Each act is a small, or not so small, action such as holding the door open for someone, being the first to say sorry or cooking a meal for your family.  Many of them are simply good manners, others require us to act generously in a way that may cost us time, money or self-respect.


Generosity is at the heart of the 40 acts and they take as their cue some of the stories about Jesus in the Bible, such as the time he was willing to eat a meal with a tax collector – one of the most reviled people of the day and something akin to a drug dealer of today – or the time Jesus transformed a few loaves and fish into a feast for thousands.  Each story shows Jesus’ generosity, but they all lead up to the 41st act, the one that we aren’t invited to share in, but simply have to receive.


The 41st act is the action of Jesus dying on the cross, and just as the penitential version of Lent was an aperitif for the main course of forgiveness through the cross, so the generous version of Lent is a prologue to the real story of Jesus’generosity.  His is a generosity that trumps all our acts, not only because of the action of giving his life, but also because of who he is.  God in human flesh.


Our acts of generosity and the recognition of our guilt in hurting those around us are important for us to do, but if they are not combined with the ultimate act of grace and the ultimate act of generosity then they are simply human actions.  When they are combined with Jesus’ action they become divine.


Be the divine generosity that God intended you to be.