Living Out Lent to the Max - Penance! Part Two of a Three Part Series

PENANCE! The second practice that we should generously undertake is that of  penance! Penance added to prayer is equal to forming a powerful prayer warrior for the Lord.

Remember Moses elevating his arms in prayer on the top of the mountain overlooking the battle being waged between the Jews and the Amalekites. When Moses arms drooped, the battle would turn sour for the Jews; but when those arms remained elevated towards heaven, and then the Jews proved victorious with Captain Joshua! Moses both prayed and sacrificed his comfort. Indeed he needed help to maintain those arms lifted on high, bit still it was a generous sacrifice. However, it resulted in the victory of the Israelites over their enemies.

Often our prayers result weak, insipid, anemic and without any effect in our lives as well as in the life of others. One of the reasons for a weak and ineffectual prayer life is a lack of generosity in the realm of penance.
At Fatima Our Lady insisted on prayer--- especially the Holy Rosary--- but also the importance of sacrifice--- another name for penance.
Jesus Himself said that if anyone wanted to be His follower than he would have to renounce himself take up his cross and follow Him. Also after Jesus resolved a tense situation after the Transfiguration the Apostles asked Jesus why they could not expel the evil spirit. Jesus responded that some devils can be expelled only by prayer and penance. (Fasting).

EXAMPLE OF JESUS.  Not only did Jesus preach the importance of penance and fasting, but He also lived it out. Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in the desert in both prayer and fasting. Fortified in the spirit by prayer and fasting Jesus easily conquered the devil and his astute machinations!

Therefore as in our presentation on prayer, following we will offer five concrete suggestions on how we can live out the call to penance so as to live the most fruitful Lent in our lives!

1. FASTING FROM MORTAL ENEMY NUMBER ONE: SIN!   First and foremost in our spiritual life we want to make a concerted effort and a determined determination to give up sin. The saints were different in age, temperament talents and abilities, culture and language. However, they all agreed on one thing: sin had to rejected totally and with a firm determination of the will. The motto of St. Dominic Savio was, “Death rather than sin.”   The virgin-martyr  Saint Maria Goretti actually lived this out preferring death through stabbing 13 times rather than to sin. These are are our models and examples--- the saints!

2. CUSTODY OF THE SENSES--- START WITH THE EYES!  The Proverb rings true, “The eyes are the mirror to the soul!”   Remember King David! His spiraling into the  depths of moral depravity--- adultery, murder and blatant denial of guilt--- all started by wandering eyes onto the beautiful woman called “Bathsheba”. Spiritual writers remind us time and time again to maintain custody of the eyes.  Follow this dynamic, if you will! What goes into the eyes filters into the mind; from the mind into the heart; and from the heart expresses itself in one’s life in concrete actions. In other words (another aphorism worthy of mentioning) “The thought is the father of the deed!!!”   Why not starting this Lent strive to attain “Eye-control!” Let us fix our eyes on all that is pleasing to God and live out that Beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8).
3. FASTING OF THE TONGUE--- CHECK OUT YOUR SPEECH!!!!   Start by reading James chapter three!  One of the best chapters in the Bible on the sins of the tongue, James warns us that we should be slow to speak and quick to listen. Also he reminds us that with the same tongue that we praise God we curse our neighbor!  This obviously should not be! The words of the Franciscan Doctor of the Church (contemporary of St Thomas Aquinas) expressed it clearly, concisely and to the point on speech: “One should open one’s mouth to praise God, accuse oneself and to edify ones’ neighbor!”    Why not choose this as your motto this Lent and hopefully the rest of your life!

4.  CURB THE PALATE!   Both Ash Wednesday as well as Good Friday fasting is obligatory. However Lent is a penitential season in its totality! Examine your eating habits! If you have a tendency to overeat, then Lent is time to curb and conquer the “Glutton” you have within you! As a result of Original sin, Gluttony is a dominant tendency. This means, in many of us, we tend to eat too much, too fast at times, and often foods that we like but may not be beneficial to our health. Remember also that our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and it is our obligation to keep it strong for the service of God and for the salvation of other souls. Athletes must curb their impulses, sacrifice themselves and dominate their tendencies for a victory on a human plane. We are athletes and soldiers of Christ fighting for the prize of eternal life. Let us wage the battle and conquer our gluttony and as such achieve and experience the true freedom of the sons and daughters of God!
5. DAILY OBLIGATIONS DONE WITH PURITY OF INTENTION AND PERFECTION. Once Lucy asked Our Lady of Fatima what penance would be pleasing to God. Our Lady responded by saying  to offer all as a sacrifice, but to start by striving to carry our one’s daily duties, daily obligations,  one’s state of life with greater perfection. Sanctity depends on this.  The key to the sanctity of  St. Therese of Lisieux is not in doing great things but rather in doing the “ordinary things our one’s daily life with extraordinary love.”  Bingo! The Key to holiness!  Therefore, for Lent in your case, it may not be in adding to your daily schedule, but rather, in carrying out your daily obligations--- mother and spouse, father and worker, son and student--- with greater purity of intention and greater efficiency. Never forget!  God looks into the heart of every individual and will pay him/her according to what he has given. St. Paul reminds us in with utmost clarity: “What we sow I this world is what we will reap for eternity!”

CONCLUSION.  We have concluded the second part of our  three-part article on how to “Live out lent fruitfully.” Prayer is of the utmost importance to arrive at a deep spiritual life. However, prayer must be accompanied by it brother “Penance”.  Call to mind the words of one of the great modern saints, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Give until it hurts!”  As supreme and sublime example lift up yours eyes and contemplate the love of Jesus hanging and dying on the cross for love of you and me!