So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Living Lent

Lent, as faithful Catholics know, is the time of penitential preparation leading up to and including Holy Week and culminating in the great feast and season of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lent is a time of deprivation. Though sunlight is gradually returning in the Northern hemisphere, we northerners might remember the natural light is diminishing in the Southern hemisphere. Jesus, the light of the world, entered into the world accompanied by the returning light of the sun. The natural light giving witness to the supernatural Light.

We should be mindful that if we allow the light of faith we carry in our heart to become hidden, if we allow our lamps to run out of oil, we are not letting the light and hope of Christ penetrate the small but significant corner of the world we each inhabit. So that the light of Christ may grow within us, we should refocus our eyes and ears on the word of God so that our interior senses may be purified by the Word.

Now is the winter of our disconnect.

The light (commitment to the Faith) has been steadily growing weaker in many countries. We might use this Lent to rekindle our public witness to Jesus. The Sign of the Cross reverently made when having a meal at a restaurant is appropriate for a Christian who, defined by gratitude for blessings received, should take a moment to sanctify the public space with a sign, the Sign of the Cross, that bears witness to the hope that dwells within a true disciple of the Lord.

Diet & Exorcize

We can and should starve the senses and appetites and refuse to indulge our hedonistic inclinations and reign in a readiness to give in to temptations. Indeed, we can and should reduce our material exploits and do with less. By reducing our footprint, so-to-speak, we can redirect our resources to support others less fortunate than us. Freed of dependence on particular material nonessentials, we can, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, better dispose ourselves to the grace of God and configure our lives to the will of God. To achieve a better disposition, we must rely on grace, and that means intensifying one's prayer life.
Prayer is the arena in which the Holy Spirit reaches into our souls. Without prayer, our efforts, however noble, will merely become an extension of our day to day tendency to indulge our baser instincts which distract us from dependance on God.
Whether we accept it or not, we are dependent on God for our very being. God sustains everything in existence. Should we not turn to the Creator and embrace our need for Him? On a clear night, look in awe at the majesty of the cosmos. We are very, very, very, very tiny creatures in a vast universe. And yet, God loves each and every one of us as if each one of us is His only child.
So then, let us embrace a happy Lent, a Lent full of surrender to the love of God.

We can and should adjust our food intake to shift the focus from satisfying bodily cravings to nurturing the soul. That is not to say we hate the body. We are not gnostics who dwell in our heads nor Manichaeans who hate the body as something created by an evil god. It is precisely because we are enfleshed souls that we must train the mind and discipline the body to bring both into harmony with the will of God. We baptized Christians are, all of us, spiritual athletes engaged in a life exercise. We are warriors in a spiritual war.

Die to Self

Holy Mother Church wisely proposes spiritual practices that help us die to self in the hope of rising again through and with and in Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
  • Fasting: controlling the amount of food to conserve resources, purify the body and aid in mind-body discipline.
  • Abstinence: adjusting the kind of food we take in so as to draw us into a deeper awareness of the necessary things in life versus the superfluous.
  • Prayer: listening to God in His word (Holy Scripture) and sacraments and listening to what He says to us in every day events. Life is not a puzzle to be solved. Life is a mystery to be lived with integrity.
  • Almsgiving: extending to all the charity (love) of Jesus Christ. By giving alms, we are reminded of the dignity of all people. Everyone is created in the image and likeness of God. By offering material and/or spiritual support to someone deprived of basic necessities, we establish a measure of solidarity with Jesus Who dwells among the poorest of the poor.
To experience the fruit of Lent, one must prune the tree of one's desires and direct one's efforts to better serve God and neighbour.

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