Joy and Mortification
Today is “Laetare” Sunday, meaning “rejoice” where we exchange (just for today) the penitential purple for the slightly more joyful rose coloured vestments. The organ is played a bit more and we sing more joyful hymns. This is because Easter is near, and we are also reminded that all of our Lenten penances – the prayer, the fasting and the almsgiving are preparing us for Easter joy and indeed eternal joy. Yet we still recognise that there is much to do.
Abstinence and voluntary self-denial are an important part of our Catholic tradition, particularly during Lent. We are weak and fallen creatures and so we need strengthening which is why we practise self-denial. If we train ourselves to go without legitimate pleasures from time to time we have gained a victory, because then we are not slaves to our desires. However, if we indulge ourselves and give in to everything we like, even though they be lawful, we are far more likely to fall when temptation comes in the form of sinful desires, because we have not struggled with ourselves. Our spiritual muscles become flabby! This is why mortification is important.
Similarly, it’s very easy to say we’re sorry for our sins while at the same time always looking to have a good time and having a party at every opportunity! J But if we don’t deny ourselves some pleasures, we are not really offering anything to God. We can say many prayers and come to church every week and at times even feel quite holy, but more often than not, it hasn’t cost us anything. So is there something legitimate I can fast from or some way I can put myself out for God? Can I make the effort or sacrifice to come to Mass in the week or spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament at Exposition on a Saturday morning, or come to Mass and Stations of the Cross on a Friday evening? Can I give some money to charity which will involve some privation to me, or sacrifice some of my time to help out a needy person or a worthy cause?
Lent can make us feel uncomfortable and this is no bad thing. Our Lord was not comfortable on this earth and He came here for you. St Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779-1865) said, “The more we have denied ourselves during the day, the nearer we are each evening to the Heart of Our Lord.” So let us not mind a little bit of voluntary discomfort or sacrifice, and remember we are storing up treasures for ourselves in Heaven.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC