19 February 2016

This Does Not Rule Me: A Lenten Reflection

One of the first things I looked into when I learned we would move to Texas was finding a Catholic church to attend. The nice thing about Catholic Mass is that you know what is happening at every parish: the liturgies (of the word and of the Eucharist) are all the same (or close: there are different Eucharistic prayers). We were thankful to find that the university parish is solid. It isn't very large or decorative and has only one priest (complete opposite of the Cathedral in Philly), but this priest is awesome. He loves the liturgy, offers the Latin Mass, hears Confessions almost every day and includes people like Benedict XVI and Abp. Ven. Fulton Sheen in his homilies.

Fr. L's homilies are often quite long, so there are many things to pick out and think on for the next week. During his homily this Sunday, he talked about Lent (of course). When talking about the things we give up, whether good or bad (you can do both or either for Lent, fyi), he said we should say to ourselves, "This does not rule me."

It was only a few words, but those words struck a chord with me. "This does not rule me."

For the first Lent that I ever observed, I gave up something that was and encouraged addictive behavior. For years, I had let this control me. It was a part of my daily life for so long that, when it came time for Lent, I thought, "Can I really let go of this?"

I've heard it said that it takes two weeks to form a habit. If you're trying to return to a fitness regime, give it two weeks and by the third, you should be reaching for your gear automatically. If you want to stick to a prayer schedule, pretty soon you'll feel weird after being awake for too long without praying. The same happened in this case. Each day I made a concerted effort to steer clear of this behavior which, on its own, was not sinful, but which gave me a sinful mindset, which could then play out in sinful work. If my mind started to wander, I'd reel it back in, focus on something else, remember the promise I made to myself and to God for this Lent. I believe that without the aid of God, even if that was only thinking on Him, I could not have overcome this as I did, in what seemed such a short span of time.

"Occasions of adversity best discover how great virtue each one hath. For occasions do not make a man frail, but they shew of what sort he is." (Imitation of Christ 1. XVI)

On many occasions, I have not shown how great virtue I have. I suspect that is much of how my life has gone. Instead of cutting temptations down when they first rear their heads, I have let them linger before I think to vanquish them, at which point sin has already come. Only by trying again and again can I hope to show any virtue I have. Only by repeatedly calling on God's help and denying myself can I have such hope.

Lent is a good time to try again and again. Lent is a good time to call on God's help. Lent is a good time to deny oneself. Lent is a good time to say, "This does not rule me." 

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