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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday, Lent, and the folly of New Year's Resolutions

It always bothers me that people place so much significance on New Year's resolutions, and start all of these lofty goals during a time of year when it's still Christmas and they should be focused on the season. Then, when lent comes, and it's the appropriate time to make a life-changing resolution, they are worn out on the idea and do something pithy and not very well thought out like giving up candy. I don't make new year's resolutions. I do tend to make many for lent -- too many, but I have to say that every time I've put some effort into it, God has returned the effect in spades.

Lent is here and it brings with it all of the assistance of Heaven to make life changing resolutions become reality. If salvations were a corporate mission, and God the CEO, lent is like a corporate employee assistance program where the CEO promises to dedicate all resources of the corporation to any employee who wants to make strides in virtue and perfection. But the CEO is God (who doesn't have Enron scandals) and the resources are His (which are infinite without use of creative accounting).

Pope Benedict XVI, in his message for lent 2008, reminds us that the three ways to merit the grace we need to realize the blessings of lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. He focuses our attention on almsgiving for this year. I can't imagine why, in particular, but I leave you with his quotes on the subject.

I'm hoping for a productive lent, for me and for you.

As promised, here is paragraph 3 of pp B VXI's message for lent:

The Gospel highlights a typical feature of Christian almsgiving: it must be hidden: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Jesus asserts, “so that your alms may be done in secret” (Mt 6,3-4). Just a short while before, He said not to boast of one’s own good works so as not to risk being deprived of the heavenly reward (cf. Mt 6,1-2). The disciple is to be concerned with God’s greater glory. Jesus warns: “In this way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5,16). []
Everything, then, must be done for God’s glory and not our own. [and not for the glory of Monaghani]
This understanding, dear brothers and sisters, must accompany every gesture of help to our neighbor, avoiding that it becomes a means to make ourselves the center of attention. If, in accomplishing a good deed, we do not have as our goal God’s glory and the real well being of our brothers and sisters, looking rather for a return of personal interest or simply of applause [or a return on real estate speculation and self adulation], we place ourselves outside of the Gospel vision. In today’s world of images, attentive vigilance is required, since this temptation is great. Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy: rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave His entire self for us. How could we not thank God for the many people who silently, far from the gaze of the media world, fulfill, with this spirit, generous actions in support of one’s neighbor in difficulty? There is little use in giving one’s personal goods to others if it leads to a heart puffed up in vainglory: for this reason, the one, who knows that God “sees in secret” and in secret will reward, does not seek human recognition for works of mercy.

I'm glad the Pope is a real Catholic, not like the ones a recent fundraising letter mentioned. For some reason, that letter makes me think the Pope reads FUMARE and must have seen a copy of that fundraising letter.

Back on the point for lent, I must go draft my resolution in writing that I won't weasel around the resolution later in lent.