From the PastorThe first Sunday of Lent is an opportune time to examine how Lent can aid us in drawing closer to Christ and dying more to self. These two go hand in hand if we are to succeed in practising virtues that help us in our relationship with Christ and in overcoming vices that pull us away from Him. I suggest that in establishing Lenten goals you focus on the physical, the spiritual, and acts of charity.
Our fallen nature has a tendency to want to be babied; it cries and whines so that we will give it what it desires. If we deny it food, it seeks compensation with extra sleep; when we deny it rest, it looks for food. It is never satisfied, and when we give in to it, it cries out all the more. Lent provides us an opportunity to deny ourselves something, and not necessarily just food. We should examine what attachments we might have – such as pushing the snooze button, getting our own way, our afternoon sugar, particular foods, and so on – and practise true mortification by giving up that which we are particularly attached to.
Giving up something that is physical must be accompanied by something spiritual for we are made of body and soul. We can have a supernatural motive for giving up physical things, such as offering the sacrifice for one’s spouse or future spouse or for the Holy Father, but we should also take on a spiritual exercise for Lent. This exercise could consist of five minutes of meditation on eternal life or on the temporal nature of this life, praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy, or reading Scripture for a few minutes each day. Use the spiritual exercise to draw closer to Our Lord so that when Lent is over you will continue with it. It will also help you persevere with your physical mortification.
Finally, we should perform acts of charity, as this helps us reach out to others. Our Lord fasted and prayed in the desert for forty days before He began His public ministry, which consisted of spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Throughout these forty days, perform an act of charity daily – pray a Memorare for someone who offended you, pick up after someone else without being seen, or perhaps offer to do something for another person. There are so many opportunities to perform acts of charity within the context of the home, for charity begins at home. Take advantage of the season of Lent to reach out to help others.
St. John Chrysostom said: “Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honoured, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin. Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful ... Let the ear fast ... by not listening to evil talk and gossip ... Let the mouth fast from the foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?”