Friday, February 12, 2016

Lenten Musings

Well lent is officially on. We have all usual reflections on fasting and pascal mysteries. It always seems a little much. Lent really is very simple. You pray. You fast. You give alms. We can make those things complicated but lent is not about finding the best possible prayer discipline or the most interesting fast or the most efficient charity. It just about doing. About changing your life and participating in something many people are doing and often doing badly. 

At its root prayer is about working on your relationship with God. Fasting is about working on your relationship with yourself and your own passions. Alms-giving is about working on your relationship with the rest of humanity. They are all related so we work on them all at the same time. 

The most important part is not being clever about these things. It is just about wanting to do better. It is about hungering and thirsting for righteousness. That means never being satisfied. Always eagerly desiring to take the next step. Refusing to settle into a blissful rut. Thinking you are good enough to get to heaven and you can let purgatory take care of the rest. Purging our life of sin is the business we need to be in regardless of where we are at.

The desire is just not as easy to have as one might think. You fast and tell yourself every time I get hungry I am going to think about God and how much I love Him. Yet we do it and find ourselves really tempted to eat. I mean really tempted. It is such a reminder of how weak we are. Yet we have to start somewhere. The temptations towards lust and greed are going to be much stronger. We gain a few victories over our lesser passions and we can learn a lot. 

It is really a school of grace. Grace is not always something that just happens to us. We need to cooperate with grace. God's strength gives us the victory but we need to keep choosing it. We need to become partners with God in our struggle for holiness. Lent give us a workout. Like physical training to get in better shape. Once the desire is in place you can keep making progress and go a long ways. Yet you have to learn how to say No to you body's desire to quit and say Yes to God's power to help you. 

Just like in the physical world, training leads to victory. Long term we need to keep raising the bar and keep challenging ourselves. That is the way to true joy and real power. Easter will be a time of joy if we take lent seriously. It will be a time when God can shower you with many blessings precisely because you have reordered yourself. You have dealt with "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" that 1 John 2:16 mentions. God is always wanting to bless you. Getting rid of the obstacles will open many avenues of blessing you didn't dream of. 

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