Text of Catholic Lent Homily Series: The Merit of Fasting and Abstinence

Text of Catholic Lent Homily Series:  The Merit of Fasting and Abstinence (Click to Listen to the Homily)

If any one of us, my brethren, should be asked what is the object of this holy season of Lent on which we are now entering, or what is the reason why it has been appointed, the answer would probably be that it is in order that we may do penance for our sins. Penance: punishment inflicted on ourselves in satisfaction for those offences for which we feel we have so imperfectly atoned, and to obtain from God those graces which we so greatly need: this, perhaps, is the idea uppermost in most people’s minds when Lent comes round.

Well, this is no doubt a reason, and a good one, not only for what we have to do in Lent, but for a great deal more that we may do, not only now, but all through the year. Few even of those who lead good lives do penance enough for their sins, even as it is; almost all go before God with a large account unsettled in this matter. How much worse would it be if there was no Lent, if the church never insisted on our chastising ourselves in any way, and seemed to treat such chastisement as of no consequence! The very notion of it would drop from our thoughts, as it has indeed long ago from the minds of those who have separated from the church and ceased to possess the true faith.

This is, then, a good reason for Lent; but there is another which we are not so apt to think of, and which, for this very reason, I would like to emphasize. This reason is the one suggested by the words of the Gospel of last Wednesday, which you have just heard : ” Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth ; . . .but lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.”

Brethren, we should have no trouble at all in getting to heaven if we only really wanted to get there. Of course in one way we do want to get to heaven; that is, we all want to save our souls from the eternal anguish and misery of hell, and we know there is nothing for us but heaven or hell in the end. But I am afraid that many Christians, especially when they have health, strength, and plenty of this world’s goods, have really very little wish to give them up, in order to pass, even could they do so at once, to those joys which the heart of man cannot conceive. No, their treasure is in this world; all their idea of happiness is founded on the pleasures which they have had, are having, or hope to have in it. Their treasure is here, and, as our Lord says, their heart is here too.

I think, then, that this other great reason and object of Lent, of which I have just spoken, is that we may do something to change this state of things ; that we may get our hearts off this world, and see our real treasure in heaven, get to know it and love it, and have our hearts there with it. We ought now not merely to stop for a while from worldly pleasures, but to try to cease loving them, and to care for something better. We must love and care for something; let us try now to get the right object for love.

Now, what is this that we should love; what is our treasure in heaven? It is our Father who is in heaven, and who is heaven itself. Brethren, it is not so hard to love God as some people think. We can all try to do a little, at any rate ; I mean to love God, not just* by keeping his commandments, but to love him in the same way as we love those things which are lovely and attractive here. Come to him now, this Lent ; that, above all else, is what it was made for; come to church not only to hear a sermon, but to pray, to get near to God, and to bring him into your hearts. Shut the world out your heart, that he may come in. Ask him to come to you and make his abode with you. Then, when he is really your treasure, he will draw you where he is ; you will not have to try to get to heaven; you will go there of your own accord. To die to the world and live to God, this is the Christian s true life ; and Lent was made to give this life to our souls.

Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul. Five Minute Sermons for Low Masses on All Sundays of the Year. Vol. 2. [S.l.]: Catholic Publication Society, 1886. Print. starts pg 154-156

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