Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ash Wednesday Unworldly Warfare

I was struck anew by the poetic imagery of warfare used in the new translation of the Mass for Ash Wednesday’s collect, the prayer the priest prays gathering all our mass intentions and offering them to the Father at the end of the entrance rite.  The collect prayer begins:

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
The warfare God calls us to wage is different than worldly warfare.  An example of the difference can be seen in the opposite modes of preparing for battle.  The Church recommends fasting which allows us to experience our weakness and recognize our limited personal resources, so as to rely on God’s strength.  The way of the worldly warrior relying on his own resources is to “eat, drink, and be merry” (Lk 12:19) before a campaign.  This can be for two possible reasons. One can be the presumptive attitude of green recruits deluded into believing that they are invincible supermen who already celebrate their own glory, another mentality is that of a jaded veteran whose quite despair in the recognition of his peril leads him to greedily suck as many pleasures out of life before his number is up.  These two vicious extremes are to be avoided.
We fight the good fight in hope because “the battle is the Lord’s.” (1 Sam 17:47) Jesus Christ has ahead won the crucial victory over sin and death through His Pascal Mystery.  Take the risk of faithfully following the commands our fearless Leader, even when his strategy doesn’t seem to make sense.  Trust that He sees the bigger picture.  Let us also remember that Jesus’ victory on Calvary did not materialize out of no where. Jesus began his public ministry of liberating souls from the forces of evil with a season of fasting when “full of the Holy Spirit, [he] returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil.” (Lk 4:1-2) We are called to meditate upon and imitate the mysteries of his life so as to share in it.  That is why we begin this Ash Wednesday with fasting, thereby empowered by Christ’s life in us to conquer those foothold the evil one still has in our lives.
+ Br. Justin Jesúsmarie Alarcón, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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