Thursday, April 6, 2017

What Lenten Penance Has Shown Me

When The Anchoress was failing at her Lenten penance, she shifted gears ... and found herself right back in the same place.
Slightly chagrined, I made an adjustment back to the most basic of basics: fasting. Without thinking much about it, I said, “Okay, no snacks. I won’t eat between meals.”

If you had asked me before this how much snacking I did, I would tell you, “Nuthin’ much . . . I can’t understand why I am having so much trouble losing weight.” But since beginning this fast, I’ve learned how often I would, out of boredom or tension, not hunger, open the fridge and look inside or thoughtlessly grab a cookie. Confronting the difficulty of holding to this simple fast, I have been forced to think about motivation, and anxiety; tension vs. comfort, what it means to self-medicate, and why I feel the need to do so.

And that has caused me to think about what I am “treating” with the eating. The “eat” comes down to the same thing, actually, as my reluctance to “meet-and-greet”
Read it all here at Alateia.

It's funny how it works when you give stuff up. Suddenly you understand just what it means in your life. I gave up listening to spoken word audio (podcasts, audiobooks) and discovered that they soothed me through my day. Without them I was twitchy, irritable, and I began eating more. Snacks, desserts, seconds. Hah! Welcome to panacea #2.

That realization has been hard but good. I am still fighting the good fight, now against both food and audio. I now know more about myself - things I wouldn't have without the fast. And I have been turning to Jesus more and more, asking for the grace I need. Leaning on him has been a great, good result of my internal struggle.

Getting my head in the game for the end of Lent, I've been reading through various meditations on the Way of the Cross at the Vatican website. Cardinal Ratzinger in 2005, Pope John Paul II in 2003. Great stuff is there. And it gets me back to the basics.

So when I read this reflection on when Jesus is nailed to the cross, it stuck with me in my internal struggles.
Let us halt before this image of pain, before the suffering Son of God. Let us look upon him at times of presumptuousness and pleasure, in order to learn to respect limits and to see the superficiality of all merely material goods. Let us look upon him at times of trial and tribulation, and realize that it is then that we are closest to God. Let us try to see his face in the people we might look down upon. [W]e stand before the condemned Lord, who did not use his power to come down from the Cross, but endured its suffering to the end ...


Lord Jesus Christ, you let yourself be nailed to the Cross, accepting the terrible cruelty of this suffering, the destruction of your body and your dignity. You allowed yourself to be nailed fast; you did not try to escape or to lessen your suffering. May we never flee from what we are called to do. Help us to remain faithful to you. Help us to unmask the false freedom which would distance us from you. Help us to accept your “binding” freedom, and, “bound” fast to you, to discover true freedom.
I begin struggling and then (with God's grace) I remember "may I never flee ... may I discover true freedom." And my struggles ease.

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