Reflections for Lent
David Martin | The Daily Knight
Lent is a time to focus on our baptismal calling to be renewed to penance. For our calling as Christians is to do "penance for the remission of sins." (St. Luke 3:3) We are called to have compunction and to sorrowfully afflict ourselves for our sins so we can return to God with a renewed and liberated heart. The Apostle Peter says that the Lord is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance." (2 Peter 3:9) That is, we should weep with contrition and "sin no more." (John 5:14) This is the sacrifice that pleases God most. "A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psalm 50:19) A life of penance and sacrifice is what keeps us on the straight and narrow and bonds us to Christ, so that we can be "a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation." (1 Peter 2:9) The Church is called to be one with Christ, our High Priest, who chose to take suffering upon Himself for our redemption and instruction. And what did the Instructor say to His pupils? "Whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27) Lent then is a time to set our priorities straight, for when we die the only thing God looks at is our soul, not our money, rank, acclaim, health, popularity, intelligence, academic skills, degrees, honors, or otherwise. When we stand before God we will be stripped of these so that our soul is laid bare before him, placed under the divine X-ray as it were, so that if there remain any stigma of sin––any envy, anger, pride, ingratitude, self-admiration, stubbornness, coldness, untruthfulness, unkindness, self-love, indecent aspirations, or love of the flesh––these blotches will need to be rubbed out and burned off in the furnace of Purgatory. (1 Cor. 3:13-15)
Sins of the Flesh
But, will all have the chance to enter Purgatory? People today degrade themselves in debauchery, fornication, and abominable LGBT living, through which many will be eternally banished. The Blessed Virgin at Fatima revealed that more souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh—fornication, homosexuality, immodesty, and other like commissions of impurity—so it is important that we mortify our senses and be "nailed to the cross with Christ." (Galatians 2:19)
The cross of self-effacement is particularly fruitful. The penance of heart that comes through humble examination of conscience and contrition is what the Psalmist means by "an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart" which God "wilt not despise." (Psalm 50:19) This is the sacrifice that God is really looking for. He wants to see more “mea culpa, mea culpa.” Obedience the Greatest Sacrifice
But especially, He wants to see the honoring of his Commandments. "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) What good does it do a man to give up candy for Lent while living with his girlfriend at the same time? Better that he give up his girlfriend and enjoy his candy. Or a woman who gives up snacks but works for Planned Parenthood? Better that she quit her job and enjoy her snacks. Such a sacrifice would bring rewards, but hypocritical fasts never pan out.
Eternal Bliss If people only knew that the rule of penance and sacrifice was given for their eternal happiness and bliss they might practice it more! The next life will be far more glorious than anything the human mind could conceive, yet lukewarm Christians discard this for a few short years on earth, as they run about aimlessly seeking the empty pleasures of the world. Wasting our time on earth has been the big mistake made from the beginning of time.
Thanks to Luther and his minions, many today entertain the fallacy that all is forgiven by Christ's Sacrifice so that there is nothing they need to do for their salvation other than to believe they are 'saved.' Consequently, Christ's Sacrifice for them is wasted since it is only applied to those who participate in it, i.e. who carry their cross and embrace penance and suffering. (Luke 14:27)
Heaven Gained by Merit
Christ's Sacrifice earned us the opportunity for salvation. It opened the gates of Heaven and purchased for us His Church with all its helps and graces, but we still need to do our part to "fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ." (Colossians 1:24)
It can be compared to a kind benefactor who decides to pay your tuition through college—all expenses paid with no reimbursement required. And this he does from the goodness of his heart. It's not due to any merit on our part, but proceeds strictly from the generosity of his heart. He sees your potential and in his mercy he has decided to pay your way through college so you can excel and earn your Master’s degree. But he’s not going to do your homework too! You have to earn your own degree.
Let us resolve then to fast from the world, the flesh, and from anything that hampers our progress as latter-day disciples. Even theological knowledge, if sought solely for itself, is vain and detrimental. “I would rather feel compunction than to know its definition.” (Imitation of Christ) Learning is a means to an end so that if our learning doesn't bring us to our knees whereby we love God above all else, it is vainglory. "Knowledge puffeth up." (1 Cor. 8:1)
We were purchased at a great price by the Blood of Christ so that we might sacrifice all to gain Him, so let us joyfully say with St. Paul: "I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:8)