Chosen or choosing? Both. Every Christian, specially chosen, marked out as God’s own at baptism, is baptized into Christ’s death that she or he might rise to a new life: “Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life.” (Rom. 6:5) After baptism, if things proceed as they should, we become more spiritual and less physical. It is not that we lose our physical bodies, but that the spirit more and more animates them. Nature itself seems to give evidence of this imperative. For example, as we get older, though our food consumption may be quantitatively about the same, a certain paunchiness appears—an indication that if we do not spiritualize our bodies in this sense, we are headed for trouble. The close connection between physical diminishment and spiritual enrichment is not a new idea. Consider this comment by St. Simeon the “New Theologian” around 950 A.D.:
It is impossible to fill the body to satiety with good and at the same time have the spiritual enjoyment of mental and Divine blessings. For inasmuch as humans pander to their belly, in the same measure they deprive themselves of spiritual blessings; conversely, in proportion as he keeps his body lean, he will be filled with spiritual food and consolation.
For years the Church singled out this particular area of spiritualization of the body through its laws of fast and abstinence. Today the Church simply tells us that Jesus, who has chosen us, says that we must do penance in order to be saved. It is up to us to discern what in our individual lives we need freely to choose to die to in order to live with him. That is what Lent is all about, and Jesus, who has already achieved the victory, will help us accomplish the task.
—Mary E. Penrose, OSB
|Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.