Armed with Weapons of Self Restraint
“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.”
Lent is here! This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season, the time when we are called by Christ to go with him into the desert. Lent is a great time for us to take stock of ourselves and our interior lives, and, as the prayer during the Imposition of Ashes says, “repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
That word “repent” is an interesting one, and the Greek word used in the New Testament is metanoia. It means a complete change of mind and heart, a turning away from something in favor of a new beginning. Interestingly, I was reading from some sources that the word metanoia could also have been used by Greek soldiers on the battlefield as a signal to “about face,” to turn and fight the enemy.
I think that’s a powerful image for the season of Lent. Often times, we find ourselves in a battle with sinful tendencies, temptations, and inclinations in our own hearts. Sometimes we go along with those things, giving into them, and making them our allies. Other times, we flee from them, which often is the best thing to do, but it’s easy to get tired. Lent, however, offers us an opportunity to “about face,” to turn around and face these temptations with Christ. We choose, in a special way during this penitential season, to do battle against ourselves, and to allow Christ, in his suffering, death, and resurrection, to reign in us.
The short prayer at the beginning of the article is the opening prayer at the Mass for Ash Wednesday, and reminds us that as we begin this new fight, this “campaign of Christian service,” that we will arm ourselves with “weapons of self-restraint,” our sacrifices, penances, and little self-denials that help us to fight. So I guess as we near Ash Wednesday, that makes this the “choose your weapon” stage of the fight. Have you thought of what you will sacrifice, or what you will do for Lent?
Here are a few ideas:
- Give up snacks between meals
- Go to daily Mass once a week, and offer it for someone in your life
- Give up listening to music in the car
- Make a pilgrimage to a shrine or holy place (Cathedral Basilica, the Old Cathedral, Shrine of St. Joseph, Shrine of St. Ferdinand, Shrine of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne)
- Give up texting and driving
- Fill 40 bags (one for each day in Lent!) with snacks, toiletries, socks, and other items, and donate them to the poor, whether a food pantry like ours, or giving them out from your car to the poor you might see at a traffic stop.
- Have a meaningful conversation with someone every day
- Sign up for an adoration slot on Wednesday
- Pray the “Litany of Humility” every day
- Give up arriving late to Mass or leaving early
- Clean out your closet and donate clothes to the poor
- Go on a walk every day and pray the Rosary
- Give up saying “God” or “Jesus” outside of prayer
- Drink only water (except maybe coffee, so you don’t hurt anyone)
- Learn about a Catholic social issue (immigration, racism, child poverty, abortion)
- Make a genuine compliment to someone you work with every day
I’ll see you on the battlefield!