The adjective “convenient” appears as early in English as 1477 (the Oxford English Dictionary), where it means something that is “personally suitable or well-adapted to one’s easy action or performance of functions; favourable to one’s comfort, easy condition, or the saving of trouble; commodious.” And it is this meaning that is the current one. Let us allow this adjective to occupy our attention for a few minutes, or even allow it to become something of considerable interest to us during the spiritual adventure of the First Week of Lent.
When I was a boy growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I remember how often advertising would sell appliances according to their “convenience” (a “modern convenience” – both being very good words!), the ease they secured for us in the accomplishment of specific tasks. I remember how ads appealed to mothers to get built into their homes a kitchen filled with conveniences – the newest appliances. “See how much more convenient than your old oven is this new microwave oven from Sunbeam!” I also recall how each new model of automobile came with new and better conveniences built right in. What made the TV cartoon The Jetsons (airing in 1962-1963) attractive to its watchers were all the conveniences that they had in their house and car.
I was raised in a culture of conveniences. It seems perfectly clear to me that our North American culture has only become more comprehensively that.
We normally like things to be convenient. We normally do not like to be inconvenienced.
The key word in that sentence is actually the verb like, and not so much the adjective convenient. Our experience of things or people as “convenient” reveals what or who we like. And liking something or someone means, as the Oxford English Dictionary expresses it: “To find agreeable or congenial; to feel attracted to or favourably impressed by (a person); to have a taste or fancy for, take pleasure in (a thing, an action, a condition, etc.).”
I would like to propose that the season of Lent can be about each of us deliberately choosing to discomfit ourselves – by doing something every day of the forty days of Lent, or not doing something every day, that is, well, downright inconvenient.
Why would one do such a thing, let alone designate a special forty-day long “season” in the Church’s year as a season of inconvenience?
Because only by challenging what is convenient, agreeable, or congenial to us – things, people or kinds of people, places or kinds of places – that we may begin to get some insight into what we like. And getting a bead on what we like can quickly reveal to us, by contrast, what we do not like. In other words, it is what we like and do not like that brings into view how constrained we really are as persons, how bound we are by mere preferences, instead of set free by the pursuit of genuine values … whether pursuing such values – “in good times and in bad; in sickness and in health” – is convenient or not.
You hear a Lenten cast of mind in the famous poem by Wendell Berry called: “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” which reads in part:
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Challenging what we find convenient, deliberately, can rattle us awake about how much we are made unfree through our preferences, through what we find congenial, and in what is easy for us. So, let us be rattled, daily, and let us do it in the Lord, do it as a kind of fierce act of awakening. Think of how taking a cold shower rather a warm one in the morning is highly inconvenient, yet how exceptionally good it is at waking us up! Let us constrain our conveniences by choosing what is centrally and permanently valuable … and giving an inconvenient amount of time to seeking it or him or her. Our convenient life puts us to sleep.
Matthew 25:11-13 – 11 Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ 12 But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 
But before we can obey Jesus’ command to “stay awake,” we have to get ourselves awakened.
So, what inconvenience have you deliberately accepted today, doing that with Christ in mind, and seeking in His grace to be freed from our preferences for the sake of becoming free through our commitment to genuine and enduringly trustworthy values?
 New American Bible (Revised Edition.; Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 25:11–13.