Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Fruits of Penance," My February Fraternity Newsletter Column

“All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. MK 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.” (Exhortation of St. Francis to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, Chap. 1)

“United by their vocation as
brothers and sisters of penance
, and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls conversion. Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.” (Art. 7a, SFO Rule)

Saint Francis was constantly reminding his followers that they could never be satisfied with the level of progress they may have made trying to live the Gospel life. He is quoted as saying in the later years of his life,” Brothers, let us begin again, because up until now we have done nothing.” He recognized that the spiritual journey is never over, that we will be traveling it every day.

We all can become complacent about where we are in our relationship with God. The upcoming season of Lent provides us with an opportunity to do a reality check on that relationship, an opportunity to deepen that relationship. The Church calls us to intensify our practice of the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent gives us the inspiration, the nudge, to spend more time in solitude, reading and reflecting on Scripture, letting the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts. We then can see if we are making a relationship with God a priority for us; if we are letting the Spirit inspire us to greater acts of charity; if we are really letting the Gospel of Christ guide us in our daily lives.

Our Rule and this season of Lent both remind us that the process of conversion is never finished, never over, no matter how long we have been professed. Each day we must answer anew the call of Jesus to pick up our cross and follow Him.

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