The Narrow Path of Life

Resolution: To follow Christ, I will choose a small mortification that I will practice during the entire Lenten season.
by Father Paul Hubert, LC | Source: Catholic.net
February 8, 2008
Friday after Ash Wenesday

Matthew 9:14-15
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you made and crafted all things in a harmony, a beauty that astounds. I believe in you. Lord, you guide all things towards the perfection for which you brought them into existence. I hope in you. You created the universe as a token of love for us to whom you have entrusted your creation. I love you.

Petition: Lord, you are our Father and always want what is best for us. Help us to learn to deny ourselves, to love better, as you loved us.

1. Christ Is Demanding Christ is not with us as he was with the apostles, and so, as he says here, we must fast. The Church has placed this time of fasting in Lent and has given it 40 days’ length. This recalls Christ’s temptation during his 40 nights and days in the desert and is also a clear reference to the 40 years Israel spent in the desert to be purified from its sins before entering the Promised Land. It is in imitation of Christ that the Church introduces us to be more generous towards others, to pray to God more intensely, and to fast. The sacrifice of fasting helps to make amends for our sins and to acquire the virtues necessary to act righteously. It is a way of atoning for our past sins and spiritually intensifying our self-denial in order to love God and others more. Let no one be deceived: Christ is demanding. Christ’s way is narrow. Christ himself makes no attempt to hide this truth and the difficulty of following him. He invites us to enter by the narrow door because the road to perdition is wide and spacious. His whole teaching is summed up in the radical invitation: “If anyone wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

2. Why Deny Ourselves? Self-denial is a word that is popular neither in our thoughts nor on our “to do” list. “Self” is what we think of most of the time; “denial” we apply to all that contradicts us. Put the two together, however, and something in us goes awry. We sense we had better skip to another subject. We can easily check our self-denial: Try to recall the last purposeful sacrifice we made in order to please God or someone else. Then recall the last time we did what most pleased ourselves. Ever since the temptation in the Garden, our egotism has played against us. It has caused us to love ourselves more than God and our neighbor, and it is at the root of any sin we commit. Fighting against egotism, putting ourselves after God and our neighbor, can only help us recover the love God wanted us to have for him and for one another. The practice of fasting helps us to break our egotism and to be able to resist our inordinate passions and feelings. This is a lifetime battle to fight, especially in the society in which we live.

3. The Silence of Forgiveness The cross, towards which we walk side-by-side with Jesus during Lent, enlightens everything we do. Has anyone else denied himself more than Christ on the cross? Has anyone else experienced the Garden of Gethsemane and looked at all the sins of humanity he was to take on and forgive? To forgive, Jesus had to be silent and not complain against our rebellion. We must imitate him in this same way when we take blows; we must learn to forgive. This is the only way if we want to be united again under the bond of divine love, the only one that can fulfill us.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, your way to Calvary was a constant denial of your human tendency to reject suffering. Help me to resist the temptation to let go and flee suffering. Rather, let me embrace it as you did for the redemption of souls and to make my heart more like yours.

Resolution: To follow Christ, I will choose a small mortification that I will practice during the entire Lenten season.


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