OUTSIDE THE BOX: 66 THINGS TO GIVE UP OR TAKE UP FOR LENT (IN BEGINNER, INTERMEDIATE, AND ADVANCED)
Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.
In the early Church and, to a lesser extent still today, there were two fasts. There was the “total fast” that preceded all major feasts or sacramental events. The ancient name for this fast was “statio” from the verb “sto, stare” to stand watch, on guard or in vigil. The second fast was a fast of abstinence from certain foods, e.g., meats or fats. This was more an act of self-discipline and self-control. The statio fast was total and a means of watching and waiting…i.e. for something. The fast of abstinence was more general and personal, to help oneself be more disciplined or self-controlled. The total fast is still kept today prior to reception of Holy Communion. Following Holy Communion, the total fast ceases because Jesus had explicitly stated that we don’t fast when the bridegroom is here, in other words, what we’re keeping vigil for has arrived, the wait is over. On the other hand, the fast of abstinence was allowed on Sundays because the continuity of abstinence can be important for it to be effective.
Sin. God hates sin. Do we? We do not often think, at least I don’t, of God hating. But God does hate. God does sometimes detest. And what God hates, what God detests, is always the same. God hates sin. God detests sin. Fortunately for us, God does not, however, hate the sinner. God does not detest the sinner. And God offers to the sinner a way back. God hates sin, but loves repentence. God hates sin, but loves the sinner.
Today’s first reading is a wonderful reminder of this. To the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope and has chosen for them the lot of truth. As we are ready to begin Lent this week, how grateful we should be that God provides to us a way back. God wants us to return to him. In fact, this is what we are told to do. Return to him and give up sin, pray to the LORD and make your offenses few. Turn again to the Most High and away from your sin, hate intensely what he loathes, and know the justice and judgments of God,
Stand firm in the way set before you, in prayer to the Most High God. This is the perfect time to do so.
This is the perfect time to do so, for today is the day of salvation. Lent is that time where we seek to be transformed, to change, to become a new creation in Christ. It is the time when we turn back to God. But giving up sin, the ultimate goal of Lent and the Christian life, is just the beginning, as we learn in today’s gospel. Keeping the commandments of God is one thing. Filling our souls with God and God’s priorities is quite another.
This is what the young man seeking more from Jesus learns. This man has kept the commandments of God. This man has really been faithful. But, that is not enough. He is not allowing God to fill his life, but rather his many possessions. As a result, spiritual growth is stunted. He is not able to give all to Christ. And neither am I. I too hang on to too many things that take me away from God. If you wish to be perfect, surrender to God and seek the way of holiness. Lent is the perfect time to start.
I am preaching the Novena of Saint Jude, days 4-9. This is an audio recording of my day nine preaching, which focused on the healing. We discuss the healing of soul in Confession, of body in the Anointing of the Sick, and the power of prayers for healing. For more information about the Dominican Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus in Chicago, visit their website here.
Readings for Today
Do you think of yourself as a saint? Do you seek for and strive after holiness? Or is it the case that you struggle to believe that with all you have done, you simply are beyond what God can love? It seems that we find ourselves today either not believing we are sinful, or not believing that even the power of God’s love can save us. Either type of thinking is a failure to know God, and a failure to seek to discover what it is that God requires of us. And a primary purpose of Advent is to get to know the God that seeks to save us.
Readings for Today
I have always found funerals to be tremendous opportunities for pastoral ministry. At a time when someone’s life is upended because of the death of someone, there can be an openness to God that was not present before. It is at these moments that we often ask ultimate questions. “What is my life about?” “Where do I find purpose? ” “Why did God put me here on this earth?” We may even be led to ask questions of anger at God. “Why didn’t you prevent this?” Why did she have to die so young?” Often when we ask these questions, we are not expecting other human beings to answer them. We are often looking for God in the midst of all of this, and to determine what our lives mean now.
Readings for Today
In a general audience on February 19, Pope Francis made a plea not too long ago for Catholics to return in greater numbers to the sacrament of confession.
“Do not be afraid of Confession! When one is in line to go to Confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then when one finishes Confession one leaves free, grand, beautiful, forgiven, candid, happy. This is the beauty of Confession! I would like to ask you — but don’t say it aloud, everyone respond in his heart: when was the last time you made your confession? Everyone think about it … Two days, two weeks, two years, twenty years, forty years? Everyone count, everyone say ‘when was the last time I went to confession?’. And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is more benevolent than priests, Jesus receives you, he receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!”