and unto dust you shall return.
Ash Wednesday has come and gone and we are already 3 days into Lent, into a day of abstinence (thank God for fish sandwiches LOL!).
I’m behind in my reading, but not very far, I will finish my book before Lent ends, and hopefully will talk about it much more. I’m also reading “Meditations for Lent” by Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, it has daily meditations for all of Lent; and I’m reading a pamphlet called “Renewing Our Discipleship; Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass”, published by All Saints Press, that was given out after Mass last Sunday at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Portsmouth, VA (I was home for a couple of days to gather tax paperwork).
During Mass last Sunday, the Priest spoke of addictions and worry. He spoke of how our addictions drag us down and make us slaves to them. In the process of being slaves to our addictions, we lose our focus on God and begin to solely focus on our addictions, whatever that addiction may be. Father then spoke on worry and how we worry about too many things and forget that God told us not to worry, but to trust in him. The scripture quote was:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Mt 6:25-33 (RSV))
On Ash Wednesday, I was back in Jacksonville and Father Peter gave a very good homily about giving up things for Lent. He said, and I’m ad libbing here, that if you are giving up chocolate just to give up chocolate, or ice cram just to give up ice cream and then after Lent are going to start eating them again, don’t give them up, eat the chocolate, eat the ice cream. Instead, give up sinning. Give up a sin, and then when Lent is over, continue to not do it, that way you will become holy. I thought that was pretty sound advice. So, I decided to give up anger. Granted, I won’t be able to fully give it up, but I’m resolved to work on being less angry in traffic and less angry when people do things that upset me. Instead, I’m going to try to be more patient, and any anger that sparks inside of me, contain it inside and offer it up for the souls in purgatory.
I started off a little put off by the reading today in “Meditations for Lent”. Before I tell you the quote and why I was put off, I will admit that it was irrational. The quote was:
“Let us then empty our heart of all other things, for if the Father alone suffices, then we have no need for sensible goods, less for exterior wealth, and still less for the honor of men’s good opinion. We do not even need this mortal life; how then can we need those things necessary to preserve it? We need only God. He alone suffices. In possessing him we are content.” (Note 1)
I was put off because I was thinking that God does not want us to intentionally starve ourselves to death because we have need of nothing other than him. Part of this life is learning how to live and love God. My thoughts were that if we are starving ourselves to death because we need only God and nothing else, then we are doing something wrong, and it is almost, in and of itself, immoral. I know that thought was hyperbolic, but it is what came to mind as I was reading the meditation. But, my hyperbolic thoughts were answered later in the meditation (keep in mind, these meditations are only 3 pages long):
“Man, abandoned to himself, does not know what to do, nor what to become. His pleasures carry him off, and these very same pleasures destroy him. With each sin of the senses he gives himself a killing blow, and he not only kills his soul by his intemperance, in his blindness and ignorance he kills the very body that he would flatter.” (Note 2)
After writing that, I went back and read the reading for today from “Renewing Our Discipleship”. I should have read it first, it would have probably stopped all of my hyperbolic pondering. I don’t really want to quote the entirety of the passage (they are very small, usually one paragraph), but I have to to convey the meaning, so:
“God’s people knew form the beginning that life is more than food, and that the one who has power to give life also has power to sustain it. Both responses, feasting and fasting, are based on the knowledge that good is gift. Both portray a relationship to God. The one who feasts does so in wonder and thanksgiving, praising God not only for life and sustenance but also for giving delight in the process. The one who fasts does so knowing that life is ultimately sustained not by human effort but by God’s care. Both feasting and fasting signify dependence on God and openness to the divine will; both express gratitude for past gifts and hope for God’s care in the future. —Irene Nowell, OSB, _Liturgy_ (Note 3)
So feasting and fasting are both dependence on God’s eternal mercy and grace. Thus we all cry out to God and thus he provides for us, and we fast to acknowledge that we are truly depending on God because our sustenance requires more than bread (cf Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4; and Lk 4:4).
There have been many things I want to put in here but I have not because I’ve forgotten them before I could get to a computer. To help remedy that, I bought a journal that I’m going to use for just thoughts associated with this blog and then add them when I get a chance. Hopefully in the next post I’ll talk about the book I’m reading for Lent.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis pecatta mundi, misere nos.
- Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 11.
- Bossuet, Meditations, 12.
- Irene Nowell, OSB, “Why do we Fast?” In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 3.