THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for March 7th, 2014
Friday after Ash Wednesday
Liturgical texts here
HEAVEN, not earth, is our home. Thus, St. Paul writes:
Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul. (1 Pet 2:11)
We all know there is a battle brewing everyday of our lives between the flesh and the spirit. Even though, through Baptism, God gives us a new heart and renewed spirit, our flesh is still subject to the gravity of sin — those inordinate appetites that want to drag us from the orbit of holiness into the dust of worldliness. And what a battle it is!
I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 7:23-25)
Thanks be to God because, when I have lost a battle, I can begin again through Jesus Christ. When I have gone soft on sin, I can turn to His Mercy that puts me back into the orbit of grace.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (Today’s Psalm)
But I still have this problem: the overpowering gravity of my flesh. Yes, we will always have temptation in this life, but if we avail ourselves of God’s grace, we can conquer it. “For freedom Christ set us free” said St. Paul, “so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
There are three ways to loosen the yoke of slavery in our lives:
…fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1434
If we are going to take the spiritual life seriously, if we want to make any serious gains in virtue, if we want to avoid falling back into the pit of sin, then these three aspects have to be present in one way or another in one’s life. Fasting orientates my body to the spirit and spiritual goods; prayer orientates my spirit to God; and almsgiving orientates my body and spirit to love of neighbour.
Fasting keeps one foot in Heaven, so to speak, because it helps me to remember that I am not here to make my own kingdom, but His. That I cannot make food and comfort an idol; that my neighbour is hungry and I have to meet his needs; that I need to always keep a spiritual hunger for God alive in my heart.
Fasting creates a space in the heart for God. So tell me friends, is a cup of coffee, an extra helping of food, or turning off the TV such a bad exchange? Remember our Lord’s words…
…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. (John 12:24)
This little act of dying, when it is done in love, always produces fruit, and in more ways than we realize. When we join our fasting to Christ’s sacrifice (by a simple little prayer and act of the will), it gains an infinite value in reparation for sin, intercession, and even exorcism.
And of course, fasting helps subordinate the flesh to the spirit.
I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:27)
Fasting is a sliver of the Cross. And the Cross always leads to the Resurrection. Jesus says in today’s Gospel that, after He is gone, “they will fast.” And so, we should fast. But we walk before we run. So start small, but enough to pinch the flesh—to let that sliver penetrate the passions.
And you’ll be keeping one foot in Heaven while you walk this earth.
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