We’re nearing the end of Lent; the challenge of Lenten sacrifice is in full-swing. Whether it is due to an insatiable craving for dessert, or an afternoon pick-up with my favorite variety of soft drink, the knowledge that I have decided to turn the radio off for my commute, or even the knowledge that a cold shower awaits me after I crawl out of bed, I am asking WHY!!!???? You may be asking that too.
1. Why do we as Catholics strive to live penitential lives?
2. Why do we decide to take on acts of penance? (In other words, how can we do penance most faithfully?)
It is a reminder of our human weakness
Fasting is hard! It doesn’t matter whether it’s food, a beverage, media or some other area of our lives; when we have to say, “no!” to some good, we learn how weak we truly are, and how easily we give in to sin. Fasting and penance helps us come to the recognition that without God, we have no chance of living a holy and virtuous life. We also see more easily how much we depend on certain comforts (often food and drink) to make it through the day. In giving up our coping mechanisms and turning to God, we turn toward a better way of life – one dependent upon God. When we turn toward God (the ultimate good) and exercise our wills by learning to say NO! (a good) we can slowly, with God’s help, overcome unhealthy dependence on material things (not good) and become more virtuous.
What if you were to give up that bad habit that draws you away from God for the rest of Lent? How much closer could you get to God? How much better off would you be if you ate or drank less, did not gossip, or used media better? Perhaps, taking a big step right away might be too difficult at this point, but what if you fasted from media for a set amount of time each day? What if you fasted from some sort of food/beverage for the rest of Lent? What if you tried to only say kind things about people? Taking small steps will still be hard, but you can trust that God is with you. While you’re at it, when you think about what you are fasting from, you can say a quick prayer for yourself and for all others who are trying to overcome bad habits this Lent as you try to rely more fully on God.