Friday, March 6, 2009

The Practice of abstinence

The Practice of abstinence
- Fr. Joel O. Jason

This Friday of Lent is offered as a special day of abstinence. How does the Christian tradition understand abstinence? It is not only a physical sacrifice
but a spiritual one, too. It is a spiritual sacrifice because it is a way of showing our contrite heart to Jesus who bore all the suffering of man's sin. It is an expression of repentance for our sins and a manifestation of our humble imploring of His mercy and sincere regret of the transgression of His will. Bishop Fulton Sheen told of his experience one Lenten season while on a plane to a speaking engagement. When the flight attendant offered him his lunch, he excused himself saying, "I'll just have a sandwich, it's Lent.". The woman beside him also settled for just a sandwich. "So you're also Catholic," Bishop Sheen asked. The woman with a surprised look said, "No, I'm a model."

The fasting of Lent differs in essence from just plain dieting. When we diet, the aim is usually to look better. When we fast (although beautification may be its consequence), our aim is beatification - to be beatified, to be better. We become better because we are able to control our desires. Instead of being dominated by the senses, we regulate our senses because we are ruled by the Spirit. Then we become blessed, then we become better disciples and witnesses of our Lord. The discipline of Lent can never be dissociated with discipleship. Discipline without discipleship is like practicing for a marathon without running it. Discipleship without discipline is running a marathon without practicing.

In these 40 days of spiritual preparation, may we all become disciplined disciples of the Lord.

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