Jesus said: “Unless you do penance you will all perish.”(Lk. 13:3) The first preaching of His Public ministry
Jesus exhorts us to conversion: “Be
converted for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”(Mk. 1:15) The Church which is
the Mystical Body of Christ generously offers us a season of grace which has as
its purpose conversion every year. This
is the forty days of Lent.
The Israelites spent forty days in
the desert; Moses fasted forty days on the Mountain; Jesus spent forty days in
the desert fasting. The Church encourages us in the Season of Lent to dig deep
into the inner recesses of our hearts and beg for conversion of heart.
This conversion can become a reality
by undertaking three traditional practices: prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. (Mt.
6: 1-18) In prayer we lift our minds to God; in almsgiving we go out to meet
the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters; in fasting we dig deep into
our hearts and beg the Lord for the grace to relinquish our attachment to sin!
This being the case, what might be
some concrete ways that we can practice fasting? An important note is the
following: fasting is not a mere diet, with the simple desire to lose a few
extra pounds. Rather, the purpose of fasting is to please God, convert our
hearts as well as to beg for the conversion of others. In other words, fasting
must have a horizontal or supernatural intention!
TEN SPECIFIC WAYS THAT WE CAN FAST:
Eat less and receive the most Holy
Eucharist more. By this practice we give more
importance to our spiritual life and the salvation of our soul. Jesus said: “Do not work for food that perishes, but for
food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of man will give you. For on
him the Father, God, has set his seal.”(Jn. 6:27—Discourse on the Bread of
Control your tongue. Saint James says, “We should be
slow to speak and quick to listen.” Read James chapter three—one of the
best exhortations in the world to work on controlling our tongue!
HEROIC MOMENT. The Founder of Opus Dei has coined the
phrase, “The Heroic moment”. By this
Saint Jose Maria Escriba Balaguer asserts that as soon as we hear the
alarm-clock we should spring from bed, pray and start our day. The devil of
laziness encourages us to push the Snooze-button! I do not believe the
Snooze-button exists in the vocabulary and practice of the saints. What do you
Control those wandering eyes. The eyes are the mirror to the soul. The holy
King David plunged into sin and more sin leading to murder for the simple
reason that he allowed his eyes to wander. His eyes wandered and gazed upon a
married woman—Bathsheba. Adulterous thoughts led to physical adultery, to
denial of his sin and eventually to killing an innocent man—the husband of
Bathsheba.(II Samuel 11-12) Let us strive to live out the Beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart, they will
see God.”(Mt. 5: 8)
PUNCTUALITY. Jesus says, “He who is faithful in
the small will be faithful in the larger things.”(Mt. 25:23) Being punctual
and on time is a sign of order, respect for others, and a means to accomplish
tasks well and on time.
LISTEN TO OTHERS. It is all too easy to interrupt others
when they speak and try to impose our own ideas even before the person has
finished his idea. Charity, which means, love for God and for others, teaches
us to respect others and allow them to speak without interrupting and imposing our
own ideas. Listening to others is also an act of humility—putting others before
ourselves! “Jesus meek and humble of heart make my heart
like unto yours.” (Mt. 11:28-30—Jesus
describes His Heart as meek and humble…)
THANK RATHER THAN COMPLAIN. Never allow a day to pass in which you do not
thank God. We should constantly be thanking God. Furthermore, we should make it
a habit to frequently thank others. “Give
thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever.”(Psalm 118:1)
SMILE EVEN WHEN YOU DO NOT FEEL LIKE
IT! This indeed could be a great penance—to smile
at somebody even when you are tired, carrying with you a headache or a cold.
This is heroic virtue. A smile is
something small, but it is contagious. Indeed a sincere smile can lift those
who see it from desolation to a state of consolation. One of the most evident
signs of being a follower of Jesus is the SMILE of joy radiating from the face. “Rejoice in the Lord; I say it again:
rejoice in the Lord.” (Phil. 4:4)
PRAY EVEN WHEN YOU DO NOT FEEL LIKE
IT!!! Many of us unfortunately base our
spiritual life on mere feelings which are ephemeral, transitory and passing
like the dew that evaporates by the morning sun. Our best example is of course
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.(Lk. 22:39-46)
When Jesus was experiencing a mortal agony and desolation that drew huge drops
of Blood from His pores, He did not really feel like praying. Nonetheless,
Jesus prayed all the more fervently. Therefore, let us practice fasting and
penance in our lives and have a set time and place to pray and to pray at times
even when we do not feel like it! This is penance and true love for God! This
is a sign of true maturity in the faith!
10. ENCOURAGEMENT! “Barnabus” actually means “Son of
encouragement”(Acts 4:36). Let us get out of our egotistic shell and focus more
on God and seeing Jesus in others—in imitation of the Good Samaritan. (Lk. 10).
Let us learn to be a Simon of Cyrene and help our brothers and sisters who are
carrying the weight of a very heavy cross. Let us lighten it by encouraging words,
motivational gestures and by a heart filled with love and compassion. Remember
the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you would like them to do to you.”(Mt. 7:12) In
the difficult storms of the earthly battle, a word of encouragement can indeed
be a powerful wind in the sails!
Prayerfully read through these ten
suggestions on how to fast—how to deny yourself—and choose at least one or two
that you can start to practice right away. May Our Lady, Mother of Good
Counsel, encourage us to deny ourselves and say “yes” to the love of God by
serving our brothers and sisters with a generous heart! (Lk. 1: 38—Mary’s “Yes” to God).