Prayer, fasting, mercy
The liturgical texts on Ash Wednesday call us to repent and show concrete ways of this process. These are: almsgiving, prayer and fast. Before I briefly reflect on these ways we should notice what was obvious for the saints, namely that these three realities must constitute one thing, giving us life. Saint Peter Chrysologus said, 'Prayer knocks, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy'. It is obvious that there might be situations in which one of these three elements is emphasised but it is important to see their inseparable relation as the basis on which 'faith stands firm, devotion remains constant and virtue endures'.
Prayer will decide about my salvation some day
Much has been written about prayer and the texts are so professional that a question may arise: what else can be said in this field, what else can interest people? Taking into account real objections I propose my Readers to sign the text below:
'I accept that prayer is indispensable for me, prayer is the most important thing in my life; I pray almost all the time and every circumstance encourages me to do so; I experience no difficulties in prayer, no external and internal ones, and this life of prayer in me is getting richer and richer as well as more beautiful; my prayer is certainly good since I can see that with time it changes my life for better'.
Our hand will tremble to sign such a statement. And if so, it would be worthy to take out the Catechism of the Catholic Church and every day, at the most convenient time, read Chapter IV of this blue book calmly and slowly. I can assure you that the text will surprise us a lot!
From the practical point of view I want to add the following comments:
'Learn to pray through prayer!'
The effectiveness of prayer depends on faith and not on the number of uttered words. Prayer is something more than the usual daily prayer although one cannot destroy this form, based on certain 'canons' and one cannot reject it.
Although certain 'poles' of prayer (morning, evening prayers) and its 'source and summit', i.e. the Eucharist, must exist one should aspire to constant prayer, which is possible at every moment and place.
Prayer must follow the laws of inner growth; thus it is necessary to develop, deepen and strengthen prayer through community prayer as well. During Lent there are many occasions to do that and they are worth taking advantage of.
It is worth caring about a proper place and mood for your life of prayer, especially in the life within the house Church movement.
What is fasting?
Simply speaking, fasting is to abstain from certain things that are permitted and good because of Lord God. What for? So that nobody and nothing disturbs the hierarchy of values that puts God first, so that all things are in order. This is also a kind of training, which brings hope that if someone can refuse certain things, which are permitted and good, he can also give up the proposals, which are not permitted and which are wrong. The thing is to control oneself and to submit your body to the spirit: it is the dog that is to wag its tail and not the tail to wag its dog!
Daily life brings evidence to what happens when we reject fast, asceticism, and fortification. How many are overweighed, suffer the consequences of indolent life, and yield to terrible addictions, the effects of which fall on innocent people? Smokers, sinning against common reason, drunk drivers, who cannot be eliminated from the traffic, the weakling stuck to their computers, users of mobile phones on their electronic leashes, slaves of soap operas, absent-minded teenagers, brought up without any stress, who are dangerous to themselves and their environment... Do we need more examples? Let us see how we neglect fasting on Fridays, which was to unite us in the practice of abstaining from meat for the Lord who was crucified out of love for us. Is there anything simpler to do? I have the courage to write that a person who cannot refrain from meat on Fridays, having many other dishes that are actually more delicious, cannot do anything, is... a wimp.
And strangely enough, Satan does not like this fast! Why? Since this practice cultivates the heart, cleanses the body, roots out sins, sows virtues, teaches sacrifice, is a sign of penance, it liberates people, and leads them to contrition and conversion.
I want a fast that will not be limited to my own stomach so that I can say 'no' when needed and to say 'yes' when needed.
Christian's nature - mercy
The logic of the poor is amazing: they are close to believers, examining the authenticity of their faith, supported by love. Do those who beg for alms remember what questions they will have to answer at the Final Judgement? It is hard to say. However, we should know that God identifies with our neighbours and makes us see his presence in them, the same presence that is in the Eucharist because in them and in the Eucharist Jesus is the same. These were the words of Blessed Sister Theresa of Calcutta. 'The merciful shall have mercy shown them', says Christ. So if I, a sinner, count on God's mercy in eternity I must show it on the earth. Let us again recall the words of Saint Bishop Peter, 'Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others.'
You have the occasion to form an imagination of mercy all the time, commencing from ...silently closing the door or washing up the bath! Mercy is not money, mercy is first of all a style of life, which allows us to be recognised as Lord's disciples. We will be judged according to our deeds of love.