Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Countdown to Lent

That's right: we're just one week away from Ash Wednesday! (And I haven't had a single piece of King Cake yet.)

Today's first reading (from Hebrews) is actually very appropriate as we begin to look forward to the "discipline" of Lent. In fact, "discipline" is the key word in that first reading. The author tells us to look at our attitude toward discipline--and by this he includes all manner of trials. It is not something we submit to or take on for its own sake; it is for the sake of "the peaceful fruit of righteousness" that it brings about in us when we undertake it or accept it within the framework of divine Providence.

We're also put on guard about the results of a lack of discipline: the "bitter root" that springs up and causes trouble, defiling many. We've seen plenty of that in the Church over the past dozen years; it has even been in the news over the past week. The letter to the Hebrews seems to say that the sex abuse crisis had its own "bitter root" in the absence of a "struggle against sin"--a struggle that is expected to be costly. Sadly, if there is one thing that was absent throughout the sex abuse crisis, it was that sense of a manly fight against evil, both in the perpetrators (granted, mostly very sick men) and the bishops and other leaders who took the quick and easy detour from the rugged path of discipline.

Discipline is not a dirty word; it is an essential practice in any area worth developing. The trick is to direct the "struggle" against the right enemy, the "capital sin" that trips us up the most--and not some lesser, more manageable, area.

This week before Lent begins can be the time to discern the area of discipline that could help us the most, to make the Lent of this Year of Faith a time of real spiritual renewal and reinvigoration.

Here's an interesting look at the shape of Lent in the past, from a back issue of the local Franciscans' newsletter.

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