Be not as the Hypocrites: leaning into Lent

Morning: Espresso.  Croissant.

Afternoon: Cafe au lait.

Evening: I sat in the pew driving out the thoughts of the day.  Trying to get focused and quiet in my mind.  My fellow Christians are on the 4th Glorious mystery.

The hunger isn't dominant, but it sits on the top of the thought layer.  The hole created by two coffees and some bread wants to focus your mind on dinner.  Especially for someone who enjoys cooking and eating food.  That reminds me...

"I get a main meal!"  My mind starts drifting to what I might prepare for my meat-free dinner tonight.  Just the thoughts of cutting and preparing my ingredients...what will I substitute for the meat...and what about the sauce, and...

Stop.  Stop it.

I shake my head gently, marveling at how quickly the devil can pull you away, and for a trifle, too.

The patroness of the religious congregation that serves my Parisian chapel is Our Lady of Good Counsel.  I stare at the ancient and miraculous image.  I smile to think that a little thing like hunger can so distract us.  Our Lady's gaze brings me back to what's important.

I read through the blessing of the ashes and the Mass for Ash Wednesday.  Our Lord reminds us of the importance of what is inside our hearts.  Who cares what others think and how they act?  Care only for the audience of your heavenly Father.

Where rust and moth consume.  Where thieves break in and steal.

For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.
For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.
For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.

* * *

Lent always seems like it follows hard on Christmas, but this year it is even more so, as this is one of the earliest Lents I can remember in my little lifetime.  And yet, perhaps that is precisely the point.  Not long after the joy and wonder of Christmas, we must face the harsh realities of life with a fallen human nature.

Lent offers us a collective cultural impetus to make massive improvements for ourselves.  Many saints have pointed out that if we were to pick one area of focus, just in Lent of each year, shortly we would have our primary faults tamed.

When you're younger the "giving up candy" act is only superficial, as rare was the mother (even more so mine) who would let a child consume candy every single day.  But it was a start.

When you find true Catholicism and find out that Lent is (and has been for centuries) a meat-free zone, you realize it's even more serious.  Especially the particularly carnivorous among us.

But the fasting that I started this article alluding to, far from being a stick to be beaten with, is actually a weapon of clarity.  You realize that while you may be longing for your next collation or meal, that there are parts of the world in which the people do not know when they will eat next.  As you write odes to bacon in your mind, you realize that abstinence is such a little sacrifice.  And if you take these 40 days seriously, and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord, and go beyond the superficiality of fasting, you can make great progress.

But only if you want.

For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.

Stephen Heiner

Stephen founded True Restoration in 2006 and served as its first President until 2023. He now lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.

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