As we age, we become more and more aware of who we are. While not wanting to be too self-conscious, or selfish, or self-serving, we do need to be self-aware and self-assured. We learn that we are created in the image and likeness of God, so each of us has the responsibility to be the self who lives and loves optimally. That is not always easy.
Self-control and self-discipline are skills we try to pursue. With the arrival of Lent, it may be a good idea to focus on little ways of improving such skills. Fasting, for example, does not have to be not eating a certain food. We might fast from watching a favorite television show. We can fast from using our cell phone for a certain hour or more during the day. Maybe we refrain from playing a favorite video game during Lent. How about that favorite sweater that brings you compliments from others every time you wear it? How about not wearing that sweater during Lent?
Fasting from anything should be partnered with a positive substitution, perhaps a substitution of a spiritual nature. We might attend an extra weekday Mass, or pray some different prayers, or start a spiritual journal. Maybe we could phone a far-away friend and pray a rosary together once or twice a week. God gives us the gift of creativity, so why not use that gift during Lent?
I noticed that “discipline” and “disciple” have the same root; the internet tells me that the words come from Latin and have to do with “instruction” or “being a pupil.” Maybe this Lent can be a time of seeking wisdom and learning to be holy. We hear in today’s first reading at Mass that God gifts us with wisdom—"her” in the quote:
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends. (Sirach 1:7-8)
It may be a good idea to start each day of Lent by reading and trying to follow St. Paul’s recommendations in Romans 12:1-2:
I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Let us endeavor to make this Lent a time of spiritual self-help which will, in turn, lead us to help those we know and love to grow closer to the human and divine Self-Sacrificer, Jesus Christ.