What Lent does

Abbott Joseph defines asceticism and its aim:

The ascetics are those who have no conceit, who do not provoke or envy other people. Ascetics practice fraternal correction in a spirit of gentleness, mindful of their own weaknesses and always willing to bear the burdens of others. Here we come closer to the heart of true asceticism. The bottom line of the Christian life according to St Paul, and of the ascetical life according to the Byzantine Liturgy, is the bearing of the nine-fold fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Now we really know what true asceticism is all about: it is a lot harder to be loving, joyful, patient, kind, gentle and self-controlled than to wear a hairshirt and skip meals. So perhaps this ought to be our ascetical program for Lent: try to be joyful and kind, try to be loving and patient with others, try to be peaceful and gentle, within yourself and in relation to others.

This dovetails nicely with what Msgr. Pope says about serenity:

To a disciple who was forever complaining about others the Master said, “If it is peace you want, seek to change yourself, not other people. It is easier to protect your feet with slippers, than to carpet the whole of the earth.”

There is an old saying, “If I get better, others get better too.” The reform and transformation of the whole world begins with me. There is great serenity to be found in staying in our own lane and working our own issues.

Much anger is abated in a marriage when an aggrieved spouse says within, “My marriage is not perfect because I am in it.” Perfect marriages, perfect churches, perfect families, perfect workplaces do not exist because there are no perfect people to populate them. And the imperfection begins with me. There is serenity in realizing and accepting this.

Unrealistic expectations (e.g. that others should be perfect) are premeditated resentments. And resentments rob us of serenity.

It is true that we must engage in properly ordered fraternal correction. But fraternal correction has little impact without humility and the serenity that defuses the difficultly of the moment correction is administered.

I will only get what I sow. If I want respect, then I must show respect. If I want compassion and understanding, then I must show them. If I want others to be better, then I must first get better.

Read them both and ponder what your Lenten discipline will bring about in the end.

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