February 16, 2013
Welcome to this meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. Visit her for more from other bloggers.
Rain and snow
This week the Lord sent us both rain and snow. Today, sunshine and birds singing – the Lord’s serenade for the pleasure of His creation. We are still in a deep drought and need all precipitation He can give us. I am already thinking about what to plant where for a good vegetable harvest this year. Just being grateful for His natural blessings is a Sabbath Moment.
Lent is a great time to do some spiritual housecleaning and form some good habits to carry forward through the year. The Pope’s renouncing his seat of Peter and my recognizing the great spiritual needs of the Church at this time have motivated me to put extra effort into the season.
For starters, even though I am well past the age requirements for fasting, I am going to do what I can. This year I have also decided to observe partial abstinence on a consistent basis. Every time I’m tempted to snack or eat meat more than once a day (Sundays excepted) will be a Sabbath Moment to check in with the Lord.
However, other mortifications are possible. That list of things needing to get done around the house, like freeing up a sluggish sink drain which is more complicated than you would think because of the design of the plug, makes me hurt all over just to think of it, let alone getting all those other things done. Instead of ducking the jobs until the situation demands, I’ll be tackling them as best I can in a joyful spirit according to my physical capabilities of the day.
Then there is the necessity of caring for a highly deficient body whose muscles never stop hurting. You might think it not a penance to use the Wii to bowl an hour a day on those days we don’t go to the therapy pool, but you’d be wrong. All physical movement, even fun, carries a price. In this life exercise is a necessity to avoid accelerated deterioration, and the discipline of doing it a great trainer of the will. I’d rather be reading, writing or watching art films and drama.
We can’t resist temptation without some kind of physical mortification, which is why the Church has always followed these practices throughout the year. Lent is our time to strengthen our will to move towards God by increasing mortification, and as the Holy Father said in his Ash Wednesday sermon, doing it as part of the whole Body of Christ.
Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene writes in #96-97 of Divine Intimacy of mortification as proof of love:
After the Incarnation, the Cross of Jesus is the greatest proof of His love for man. Similarly, mortification, which is suffering eagerly accepted for the Love of God, is one of the greatest proofs of live that we can give Him. It means freely giving up a satisfaction or a pleasure in order to impose on ourselves, for love of God, something which is contrary to our own natural inclinations; we thus prove that we prefer to satisfy God rather than ourselves…
…The value of voluntary mortification consists much more in the good will with which it is practiced than in the intensity of the suffering which is imposed, although the latter may contribute to it in the sense that a more painful mortification requires more good will.
The amount of suffering must be wisely proportioned, and limited to the physical strength of each one; but what must never be limited is the love, the spirit of generosity with which we perform each act of sacrifice. From this point of view, a slight mortification done with all the love of which a soul is capable has greater value than a painful penance performed in a material way, with no interior spirit. Hence…it is necessary to arouse our good will and our sincere desire to suffer willingly for the love of God. This will prevent a mere mechanical performance of the act that has little or no value.
The spirit of mortification has more than a purely physical aspect of mortification; it also includes renunciation of the ego, the will, and the understanding. Just as in our body and in our senses we have unruly tendencies toward the enjoyment of material things, so also in our ego there are inordinate tendencies toward self-assertion. Love of self and complacency in our own excellence are often so great that, even unconsciously, we tend to make “self” the center of the universe.
The spirit of mortification is really complete when, above all, we seek to mortify self-love in all its many manifestations… There is little value in imposing corporal mortifications on ourselves if we then refuse to yield our opinion in order to accommodate ourselves to others, if we cannot be reconciled with our enemies, or bear an injury and a cutting word with calmness, or hold back a sharp answer… As long as mortification does not strike at our pride, it remains at the halfway mark and never reaches its goal…
The true spirit of mortification embraces, in the first place, all the occasions for physical or moral suffering permitted by divine Providence. The sufferings attendant on illness or fatigue; the efforts required by the performance of our duties or by a life of intense labor; the privations imposed by the state of poverty [religious life reference]- all are excellent physical penances. If we sincerely desire to be guided by Divine Providence in everything, we will not try to avoid them, or even to lighten them, but will accept wholeheartedly whatever God offers us. It would be absurd to refuse a single one of those providential opportunities for suffering and to look for voluntary mortifications of our own choice…
It is exactly the same in the moral order. Do we not sometimes try to avoid a person whom we do not like, but with whom the Lord has brought us into contact? Do we look for every means of avoiding a humiliation or an act of obedience which is painful to nature? If we do, we are running away from the best opportunities for sacrificing ourselves and for mortifying our self-love; even if we substitute other mortifications, they will not be as effective as those which God Himself has prepared for us. In the mortifications offered to us by Divine Providence, there is nothing of our own will or liking; they strike us just where we need it most, and where, by voluntary mortification, we could never reach.
In order to arrive at sanctity, a certain specified amount of voluntary penance is not required of all; this varies according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the advice of superiors, and each one’s physical strength. All, however, must have that truly deep spirit of mortification which can embrace with generosity every opportunity for renunciation prepared or permitted by God.
The paragraph on the moral order demands, I think, the greatest interior strength of will imaginable because it is about our relationship with our neighbor and crucifying our pride. Watch out for the demons of hell prowling about with the intention of disrupting mortification this Lent or getting us to nullify our good resolve, especially regarding the moral order. They will do everything they can to prevent us from developing holy habits and doing all for the love of God. Fortunately, we can call on our ferocious guardian angels to intercept their evil intents.
And now I am off to get started on that sluggish drain problem. Time to get going on becoming a gold medalist in the Spiritual Olympics by the grace of God. May your Lent be joyful, holy, and fruitful.
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