I was shuffling through old notes and came across some things I wrote down on Ash Wednesday. They provided a good Lenten Pick-Me-(back)-Up.
I don’t usually pay much attention to the Collect at Mass The “Collect,” (in case you, like me, don’t know what the various parts of the Mass are called), is the prayer that the priest says right at the beginning. It’s the first thing that is read right after he says, “Let us Pray.”
For some reason, God had me tuned in as Father Randy read, “Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.” That spiritual opening whistle caught my ear because I’ve been thinking a lot about self-restraint lately. Actually praying about it. Actually, wishing that I had some. Actually, going crazy because most of my life has been entirely defined, driven and determined by a lack of self-restraint.
Today my body and my spirit show the results of five decades of “If it feels good, do it.” And, like the man who drank until he discovered he no longer had the power to quit, I find to my surprise that it’s difficult, no it’s impossible, to just drop those bad habits and pick up new ones without some sort of help. And then out of the blue, the Church offers up this prayer. Lent has a purpose. It’s a “campaign of Christian service.” We’re not just doing battle with our own weakness, “we take up battle against spiritual evils.” And our weapons are not weapons of mass destruction, but “weapons of self-restraint.”
My Lenten sacrifices have a renewed purpose. We’re here to do battle. God knows there is an enemy out there, and that enemy is constantly trying to pull us down to the earth. It’s trying to prevent us from looking up at Heaven by luring our eyes to buffet, the bar, the TV screen, or that attractive person over there. It’s trying to destroy us.
So, pick up your sword and your shield. Turn away from meat on Fridays, desserts on weekdays, trashy movies on weekends, or whatever your weapons of self-restraint may be. Use this 40 days to make yourself spiritually-stronger. We have a world to win.