Are you ready for Lent?

Cheesefare Sunday/The Sunday of Forgiveness 

Romans 13:11-14;14:1-4

Matthew 6:14-21

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Lent.  The Great Fast. 

And the Church, in its wisdom, picks this Sunday for this Gospel.  If you think about it, it’s kinda like a Lenten how-to.

First, our Lord tells us the importance of forgiveness. He’s told us this so many times. In the Our Father, he teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  And, in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the merciful for that shall receive mercy”.  You see, forgiving others, showing mercy, that results in God showing us mercy. And it enables us to receive mercy.  And we’re ALL in need of His mercy.

When you fast, don’t let others know that you’re fasting.  If you go around with a long look on your face, letting people know just how much you’re suffering to perfect yourself as a Christian, letting them know how much your suffering helps you conquer your passions, are you REALLY suffering to perfect yourself? Or are you drawing attention to yourself, looking for pity? Remember, “Blessed are the meek, for THEY shall inherit the earth”. And, if you’re showing others how successful you are in conquering the passions, does that include how successful you are in conquering pride?

The third key that our Lord gives us for a good Lent is one he’s given us before.  Don’t store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, but store up treasures in heaven. 

A great characteristic faith of the ancient world, revealed itself in many divergent guises, seldom fully intelligible to modern men, was faith in the absolute supremacy of the inward life over things of this world, of this life.  These men really believed that wisdom is more precious than jewels, that poverty and ill health are things of no import, that the good man is happy whatever befall him, and all the rest.  And in generation after generation many of the ablest men, and women also, acted upon the belief. They lived by free choice lives whose simplicity and privation would horrify a modern laborer, and the wise of the world about them seems to have respected rather than despised their poverty.

Our Lord is telling us to strive for this perspective.  If we store up treasures on earth, our attention is taken away from the interior life. That’s why poverty is so often stressed in monastic life. The Church doesn’t want us destitute, but she DOES want us to  have little dependence on our physical condition and comforts. And one of those comforts is food.

But, remember, even if we understand why it’s important to fast, we’re still likely to be under attack from the Enemy. Fasting is indeed a spiritual battle.  In this world, we are in an almost constant battle with the forces of darkness.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

My brothers and sisters, as we go through this Lent, be aware of the struggle. Be aware of the battle.  And fight the good fight!