[Penance] does not mean sacrifice and self-denial in the first place, but a “change of heart,” a victory over sin and a striving for holiness. The sacrifices of fasting and self-denial are only means and signs of this spiritual penance. If people understand this well, they will not put the main effort in Lent on technical feats of abstaining from pleasures (which sometimes make them proud or vain), but in sincere contrition, prayer and humble fight against their faults.
~ Fr. Francis X. Weiser, S.J
|"In Ictu oculi" by Juan de Valdes Leal|
Ash Wednesday. Time to dust [no pun intended] off those New Year’s resolutions and try, try again! Lent is less about doom and gloom, and more about changing one’s heart. Unplugging from the world for forty days and re-aligning one’s spirit with what is really important in life: Love, Faith, Generosity, Authenticity.
Many people give up eating a certain type of food, such as chocolate, or literally unplug by giving up Facebook or personal email. While good, those things miss the point and don’t really go far enough. My friend Terry [who is the most awesome tenor eh-ver!] said it best on Facebook the other day:
“Think it matters if you stop using Facebook for 40 days…it doesn’t. How about 1 posting a day about something that matters…perhaps there’s a charity you care about. That might be something to post instead of cats wearing bowler hats. Giving up meat? So? Do it…but maybe spread the word about sustainable, small independent and local farmers while you’re at it….”
There’s a great story in Scripture where Christ talks about a man possessed by a demon, who gets rid of the demon, and sweeps the interior clean; but then the demon gets bored wandering around, finds seven more demons worse than he is, and comes back inside the guy. What?! That’s not fair! The guy got rid of the demon and swept his house clean! Yes, but he didn’t put anything in the space left by the demon’s absence.
It’s not enough to stop eating fast food [the evils of which is a post for another day!] or sweets. It’s not enough to stop watching so much reality TV or spending so much time on the computer or the internet. Getting rid of those behaviours is a good and laudable thing! But put something in its place. Otherwise the bad habits will come back stronger then before! We have enough negativity in our lives; do something positive!
Personally, I haven’t finished taking stock yet to see where I need to clean house. But in one area is definite: after my gall-stone cleanse, I fell off the 80% raw-vegan-juicing lifestyle wagon I had been riding for so long. My bank statement alone is enough to accuse and convict me! So one thing I’m giving up is eating out ~ healthier for my wallet and my body. And in place of eating out [where in the world does that food come from anyway!?], I will be making my own fresh smoothies and juices and eating only organic, sustainable foods.
What about you? Do you observe Lent? What are you giving up and getting into?
Oremus pro invicem,