Time for intense penance
Penance is actually what we have to do all the time. It’s quite clear that we need it, given our weakened, wounded and sinful condition in the entirety of our earthly sojourn. But it has its more intense moments, one of which is precisely the period of Lent.
The spirit of penance is not actually something that is dark, negative, painful, etc. It’s not something we should run away from. In fact, it’s not something that we should just bear and tolerate since we cannot avoid it.
We need to embrace it, to love it, and thus, we have to develop that spirit as best that we can. It is actually something beautiful, purifying and liberating. It recovers us from our wounded condition and reinforces our dignity as persons and children of God.
We need to develop and live this spirit of penance because it is clear that sin continues to dominate us in this life. In fact, it quite clear that things are getting worse. There are now powerful and well-established structures of sin in our midst before which we are simply an easy prey.
The networks of corruption, pornography, godless and worldly ideologies, etc. are proliferating, taking advantage of the powerful technologies and the relative vulnerability of many people, especially the young ones, who are not yet prepared to properly handle these networks.
The sense itself of sin is disappearing. Pope Francis and the previous ones have pointed that out and are warning us of this condition. They are strongly encouraging us to truly develop the spirit of penance.
Lent is indeed a time to give special attention to our conscience, if only to clean, polish and fine tune it, so it can more correctly and punctually hear the voice of God who is the only one to tell us what is truly right and wrong, moral and immoral, etc., in these very confusing times.
We need time and effort for this. We have to pause from our usual routine of work and daily concerns, and immerse ourselves in prayer and meditation, as well as studying more deeply and extensively the doctrine of our faith, especially that part concerning morals.
Lent is the time to practice and live piety in a more special way, knowing that piety provides us the proper footing in our relation with God, and through it, in our relation with others as well.
And this piety, if it has to have a more prominent aspect of penance, should include a significant amount of sacrifices and forms of self-denial and mortification, like fasting and abstinence not only from food, meat and drinks, but also from the many other worldly commodities that while offering us some good can also easily spoil us.
We have to intensify our practice of disciplining our thoughts, desires, our words and activities, to better conform them to the requirements of truth and charity and to prevent them from straying into ways of self-indulgence, if not into the wiles and tricks of the devil.
We cannot deny that since our thoughts and desires are hidden, they can easily go to forbidden territories and stay there for quite a while. We should try to stop that. Also, our mouth can just say things without processing them properly. We should keep close watch over our mouth.
It is in the lust of the flesh that we should be most intense of disciplining. And in this regard, it would not be unwise to resort to some extraordinary corporal mortifications if only to keep our body’s wild tendencies under control.
Aside from fasting and abstinence, perhaps we can consider sleeping on the floor from time to time, away from our comfortable beds. And why not? We can use some instruments of corporal mortification used by the saints of previous eras like the whip or the cilice. If you do not know what they are, just Google them.