There are many ways of denying ourselves, and if we are honest, there are things that are a lot more difficult than giving up chocolate for 40 days that we could do that would have a far greater impact on our spiritual growth and character. It may be not watching as much TV or not spending as much time on the internet. Each of us knows what this is for us personally. We could then use this time to devote to a positive good habit, e.g. some extra prayer or doing some spiritual reading.
I believe one of the best good habits that we can develop is to take some time for spiritual reading, every day if possible. There are many biographies of the saints, books on prayer, and books to deepen our understanding of our faith. However, my favorite book is the Bible itself. The problem is, even if I do take time to read the Scriptures, they are so familiar to me, at least certain books, that I tend to read them without really reflecting on them. I let the words go through my mind, but never really let them settle and sink into my heart.
In last Sunday's Gospel, Jesus answers the temptations of Satan with three quotes from Sacred Scripture, all of them from the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:13 and 6:16). The synagogues of the time of Christ did not have the entire set of the Torah, Prophetic, Historical, and Wisdom Books, but only certain ones. The hand-copied scrolls of the Scriptures were very valuable. We know the synagogue at Nazareth had the scroll of 'Isaiah', because Jesus read from it at the beginning of His public ministry. I would like to think that it also had 'Deuteronomy', which would have been read at their Sabbath assemblies. Jesus let these words sink into his mind and heart, so that he had a ready answer to the wily suggestions of the evil one in the desert.
Mary's hymn of praise, the Magnificat, in Luke 1:46-55, after she is greeted by Elizabeth, has many parallels to the hymn of praise that Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prays in the First Book of Samuel 2:1-10. As Mary heard these words read in the synagogue, she also let them settle in her soul where she dwelt on them. When her heart burst forth in praise at Elizabeth's salutation, strains of Hannah's prayer spontaneously rose from her heart.
The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation says, 'The Church has always venerated the Divine Scriptures just as she venerates the Body of the Lord… she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the Bread of Life from the table both of God's Word and of Christ's Body.' From this we see that spending time with the Word of God is like spending time before the Eucharist. It nourishes, strengthens, guides and forms us. There is a light and strength that come from both that can be found nowhere else.
This Lent I personally feel called to spend more reflective time with God's Word. My denial item is doing just fine - so far - but my new habit has a way to go. As the Scriptures were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (CCC 105), and as Jesus went into the desert 'full of the Holy Spirit' (Luke 4:1), I pray that the Holy Spirit will accompany each of us on our Lenten journey and guide us through a fruitful Lent to a glorious Easter.
Pauline Books & Media is offering a Lenten retreat for the Jubilee of Mercy. If you want to make this Lent extra-special consider following the mini-retreat.
Just follow the link below to learn more about it.
Sr. Patricia Mary Maresca has been a Daughter of St. Paul since 1983. Besides evangelizing door-to-door, she has served in several PBM Centers from coast to coast. She is now carrying out a second term in Boston as a provincial councilor.