It was the old days, and a young man of no faith in a mostly Catholic town was grilling big, juicy steaks on his outdoor barbecue every Friday evening in Lent while the Catholics - who weren't allowed meat - were eating cold tuna.
Then, after many years, the now not-so-young man decides to convert.
The overjoyed Catholics and the priest meet him at the church.
The priest sprinkles water over the man, saying: "You were born a heathen, you were raised a heathen, but now, you are a Catholic!"
At last, the local Catholics' biggest Lenten temptation was gone.
The following Lent, as all the Catholics were sitting down on Friday night to eat their cold tuna, there came the same wafting smell of steak - and it came from the same location.
The people could not believe their noses. The priest made his way over to the man's house to see what was going on. Perhaps he had forgotten it was a Friday in Lent.
The priest arrived just in time to see the man standing over his grill.
The man sprinkled some water over his succulent steak on the grill and said: "You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, but now, you are a fish!"
This week, Lent begins for Christians all over the world. I've decided to give up new jokes for Lent, as you can clearly see.
The word "Lent"- perhaps from the Old Dutch word "lentin" or the Old High German word "lenz" - is an abbreviation of the Old English word "lencten" which means "springtime".
I've heard it said "don't give up chocolate for Lent. That's childish!" Really? I still find the penance of giving up chocolate one of the hardest.
I've also heard it taught: "Lent is not about giving up things." Are they sure? Besides, I don't know if 40 days a year of giving up things is necessarily a bad thing.
In Buddhism, there is a concept called "sunyata" which means "emptiness". It's a necessary step towards the achievement of enlightenment.
In Russia, they have little cabins that are called "poustinia" (desert).
Inside, they have a chair, a table and a bed - that is, if you're lucky. You do not talk, you do not eat (much) - you just think, pray and self-empty.
Perhaps you are musing right now: "Yes, that's all good for spiritual people; but most people don't want to 'self-empty' and they don't want less."
Maybe you're right to say that what many people want most in life is more money, because they want more/bigger things.
I'm not so sure. I could be wrong, but I think what many people want most, perhaps even most people, is simply less stress.
Walking among nature is where many say they feel the closest to their soul.
The fight for the environment can be won only by reducing our emissions and reducing our carbon footprint, because sometimes, less is more.
There's a practice in the spiritual life known as "kenosis", which is Greek for "self-emptying". The idea is that you need to empty out all the junk that has collected in your mind and your will over the years so that God's will can find room inside you.
In more recent years, I have gained a deeper appreciation of how brave Jesus was in his last hours on earth.
He never let go of his principles, even though his enemies tried to strip them from him by stripping him of everything, layer by layer.
First, they stripped him of his friends in the garden.
Then they stripped him of his good name in a kangaroo court.
Next, they stripped him of his dignity, as soldiers whipped him mercilessly.
Then, they stripped him of his clothes in front of women, including his mother.
And finally, they stripped him of his life on the cross.
The less he had, the more he had because he never lost his principles. Now, that is true kenosis.
Perhaps it's not what we don't have, but rather what we do, that is holding us back from greatness.