Soon Enough-Lent

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I know that by this post I am treading in the place of the Rat; nevertheless, I have cause to think that this might give her some delight.

from Sermons Parochial and Plain
John Henry, Cardinal Newman

Sermon 7. The Duty of Self-denial Seasons - Lent

"Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child." Psalm cxxxi. 2.

{86} SELF-DENIAL of some kind or other is involved, as is evident, in the very notion of renewal and holy obedience. To change our hearts is to learn to love things which we do not naturally loveā€”to unlearn the love of this world; but this involves, of course, a thwarting of our natural wishes and tastes. To be righteous and obedient implies self-command; but to possess power we must have gained it; nor can we gain it without a vigorous struggle, a persevering warfare against ourselves. The very notion of being religious implies self-denial, because by nature we do not love religion.

Self-denial, then, is a subject never out of place in Christian teaching; still more appropriate is it at a time like this, when we have entered upon the forty days of Lent, the season of the year set apart for fasting and humiliation.

If time permits, you may wish to consult the entire sermon here
"To change our hearts is to learn to love things that we do not naturally love." This is the core of the ongoing Christian vocation. In this simple sentence Newman speaks of detachment without ever once uttering the scary word. We must learn to love what we do not by nature love--to do so, we must unlearn our entanglement with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Lent gives us the beginning of an opportunity for this self-denial. But it is the merest beginnings. Many of us start Lent, fresh as triathletes at the beginning of their ordeal, and we end winded and happy to be released from these self-imposed burdens to return once again to our life as we knew it before Lent.

Here's a mental challenge--take what you plan to do at Lent and stretch it out over a lifetime. Can you continue this self-denial? Is it a good form of self-denial? Does depriving yourself of chocolate for 40 days really mean anything? Or could the denial take the form of one day a weak of a Catholic Fast and prayer. Every weak, inside Lent and Out. Eat a little bit less and keep in mind those who have need of more?

Each year I am challenged by Lent to grow, and each year I reach the end with a certain sense of disappointment. I have not kept to what I have promised with the earnestness I would have liked. And each year I realize that I am relying on myself. I did not do..., I did not keep. . ., etc. Each Lent I'm invited to surrender and I use the Lenten practices to build my cozy fortress more tightly around me.

Meditate then upon these words from a different Sermon:

And be sure of this: that if He has any love for you, if He sees aught of good in your soul, He will afflict you, if you will not afflict yourselves. He will not let you escape. He has ten thousand ways of purging those whom He has chosen, from the dross and alloy with which the fine gold is defaced.

Perhaps God's affliction takes the form of my own disappointment and living with less than the best. Perhaps it takes the form of knowing we can do better and consistently refusing to do so. These too are forms of affliction. But as God does love us, He can use these things to transform us. As God does love us, He will use every means to get out attention. Let's face it folks, some of us just need to be slapped upside the head before He speaks so we'll pay attention. Nothing less will work.

P.S. I truly love the opportunities that Lent presents to grow in love. If only I could preserve those wonderful gifts through the rest of the year!

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Steven Riddle at Flos Carmeli has good thoughts in preparation for Lent. A short excerpt of his meditation:Perhaps God's affliction takes the form of my own disappointment and living with less than the best. Perhaps it takes the form of Read More



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 22, 2006 4:43 PM.

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