Lent, Fasting. Preparation for Easter
The Holy Mother Church is reminding us that is Lent. A time of the year that corresponds to the forty days before Easter Sunday, a time of spiritual preparation that culminates with the Resurrection.
Moses fasted for forty days before receiving the ten commandments, Jesus fasted also for forty days after his baptism before he started his public ministry. We should at least do something special to commemorate the life, death and resurrection of our Saviour, during this time of the year.
The Church is marking in its calendar this time of the year as an opportunity to come back to God, through a period of self denial, sacrifice, penance, prayer and commitment to God.
It is an obligation as Catholics to go to confession and to attend mass at least once a year, the best time being either Easter or Christmas.
Lent is a especial time of repentance, marked by the Holy Scriptures as a time to fast and weep for our sins, to make reparation for our sins and to tell everyone to assemble in prayer. (Joel 2:15)
Jesus went into the desert for forty days where He was tempted three times by the devil (Matthew 4:1). Our lives are spiritual deserts where we are bombarded by temptation in many forms, in fact we are tempted by the three mortal enemies of our souls: the world, the flesh and the devil.
The world is a gigantic source of temptation for our senses, all the attractions and pleasures of life find the right partner in every one of us. We get so busy with so many things to do, it seems that our lives are too short for the amount of activities that we could do, we get caught up in the currents of the world and without knowing it worship many false gods which rob directly the time that we must give to God. The Lord says give to God what is God's and to Cesar what is Cesar's (Matthew 22:21), so Lent is a time when we are reminded to curb on our self indulgence, to withdraw a little bit from the world and to search for God with repentance.
If we could acknowledge with sincerity the fact that we never do enough to have a perfect relationship with God, then we would be given the grace to stop doing so many unnecessary things and like Mary in the Gospel, we would come at the feet of the Lord to know him, love him and serve him. (Luke 10:40-42)
The world is only a temporary place for the citizens of heaven that we are (Ephesians 2:19), unless we desire to give up the heritage that has been given to us in the Spirit of Christ Jesus. Therefore, let us meditate profoundly on the importance of the spiritual matters above the world matters and give more time to God than to the world.
We can start by spending extra time doing our prayers, by extending our prayer life by meditation and silence, by spending more time doing works of charity, visiting the sick and the elderly, by reading spiritual books and by sincerely making a resolution to start a new life of commitment to Christ.
The call to holiness involves becoming a spiritual person, one that is more dependent on the spirit that on the calls of the senses.
The senses are windows to our souls. It is through stimulation of the the senses that we increase our human desires out of proportion until they become passions. The eyes hunger for beautiful and sensual things, the ears hunger in curiosity for the unknown, the sense of touch hungers in expectation for comfort and pleasure, our taste expects to be satisfied with delicious foods, our sense of smell desires only the most pleasant smells. In fact the senses become so fussy and intolerable at times, it is really a shame.
In a certain way, the soul is a prisoner of the body, it gets caught up in the animal inclinations of the flesh and strays away from the spiritual path that is traced before it. If we don't make determined efforts to control our senses we become like animals, subject to the lower passions of our senses.
We should meditated in the chastity of our Lord and the virginity of our Lady in order to comprehend the great value of purity. During lent we are called to abstain ourselves from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This is a mere formality, the reality is that we should be abstaining from having things that overstimulate our senses. We must offer to God a true sacrifice of self denial, in order to make reparation for our sins.
Lent is simply a suggestion by the Church to amend our lives, to repent and to do something to improve our relationship with God, the responsibility is entirely ours. This time of the year is a true time for sanctification if we cooperate with the call of God and harden not our hearts (Hebrews 3:7).
Fasting united to prayer is a very good way to promote sexual control in our lives, by fasting with bread and water at least once a week we teach our bodies to stop demanding like an animal and eventually we take full control. We can also overcome gluttony and many other passions by fasting.
(Romans 8:5) For they that are according to the flesh, mind the things that are of the flesh; but they that are according to the spirit, mind the things that are of the spirit.
This hidden enemy of our souls is always with us, he is like our shadow. But people have become so materialistic that if they don't see a thing, they don't believe in it.
So living in this modern world people don't believe any more in the devil, which is to his advantage. He is that silent killer of souls, a murderer from the beginning who tempts continuously even the most virtuous souls. He doesn't need to show his face because he works from within.
Who is the devil?, but a spirit of evil. If we hate, God who is love is no longer within us, so we open our hearts to hatred, the personification of the devil and certainly enough he comes in and claims what is by right his,... poor unfortunate souls.... Therefore we must forgive! and love!
If we allow impurity to permeate our hearts, we allow the spirit of lust to burn within us therefore the devil will be having a good time as king of our hearts. Only chastity and purity will cast out this demon that attacks the flesh so punitively.
He is the father of lies, he attacks the soul that harbours pride, covetousness, injustice, impurity, gluttony, insincerity, wrath, sloth or idolatry. Idolatry in our modern times being the love of the world as a false god or ourselves, little demanding gods that reject the true God through sin.
Beware of the devil my dear brothers and sisters, he is as real as you and me, you either fight him with your life of prayer and repentance or become his friend through indifference to God.
Let this become an opportunity to face the enemies of our souls by prayer, self denial, sacrifice, charity and commitment to God.
May the joy of the Resurrection be always our joy, so that as we suffer in Christ we will also rejoice in Him who is our way, truth and life.
We must confess our sins personally to the priest since the Church has received the power to forgive sins. We must confess our sins whenever we commit mortal sin or whenever we want to experience peace with God even after commiting venial sin.
The Church was given the
power to forgive sins the day of the Resurrection of Our Lord.
Jesus is truly present in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He is the bread of life that has come down from Heaven (John 6:35, 6:48-51 ). Unless we eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, we have no life in us (John 6:53).
In order to receive Jesus in this holy Sacrament we must be purified through repentance of our sins and confession in the Sacrament of Penance before a priest otherwise we will be condemning ourselves by committing a grave sacrilege.
Holy Communion is our communion with God, when we pray the Our Father we say "give us this day our daily bread", we ask for this bread but do we come to receive it?
It would be ideal to develop a holy relationship with God so that we can commune with him daily. the Precious Blood of Jesus is our sanctification in this humble sacrament.
Wishing you a Happy and Holy Lent, and a Holy Easter.
Joseph of Jesus
The Work of God