joel 2:12-18; Ps 51 Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6,16-18
"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mt 16:24)
"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you." (Col 3:5)
"So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." (John 16:22)
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." (Col 1:24)
We share in Jesus' divine life and his divine work of redemption. We can apply the fruits of our self-denial to others and the world as an act of charity. For it is self-substituing love that remains the central mystery of salvation and redemption.
Jesus substitutes his life and love for us. We unite our denial, our fasting, our sacrifices to his and thus it becomes efficacious in the same manner as Christ's act on the cross. We become the "ambassadors for Christ so that we might become the righteousness of God in him". (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
We embark, as the opening prayer for the liturgy points us, on a "Campaign of Christian service, where we do battle against spiritual evils, armed with weapons of self-restraint."
As the old adage goes, no pain…no gain.
Lent is an opportunity to recognize where we have substituted created things in place of the creator. It is now, this acceptable time, where we gaze inward to see where we have chosen lesser goods and have forsaken the higher good.
It is time to unearth our call to holiness that has been buried beneath the debris of life and once again to rediscover JEsus who comes to give us a life that is full and joy that is complete. Our task is to receive the gift and cooperate with it with our willingness.
We are called to get in shape. Here we are not focused on our physical shape but the shape of our soul. How is it bent? What does it seek? How will these weapons of self-restraint remove the fatty tissue from our souls that have been causing problems?
Self-restraint and self-discipline remain the tools by which we direct our wills to the God who is love and we do this not for a perishable crown like athletes who compete but imperishable.
Seek first the kingdom of God and all will be given unto to you. First things first!