“My child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things…
But now… you are in agony.”
(Excerpt from Luke 16:19-31)
Have you noticed that, as a general rule, the things that are bad for you are pretty enjoyable, and those which are good for you are less so? From eating your vegetables to persevering in your vows, the harder path is often the better path. Even if we are in agreement that this is the case, we still face an all-too-human condition, one that tyrannically seeks comfort (and avoids suffering) at all costs.
Our Scriptures this Sunday confront this uncomfortable reality: the prophet Amos laments ‘those who are at ease in Zion’: St. Paul urges Timothy out of his comfort zone and to ‘pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, endurance… Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of eternal life’; and the rich man of Jesus’ parable finds himself damned to hell because ‘he feasted sumptuously every day’, while ignoring the poor man, Lazarus, who lay at his gate.
When we give in to our desire for comfort and our fear of pain, we put ourselves in danger of becoming complacent, lazy, and selfish. This affects our whole person, body and soul. In Her wisdom, the Church has been keenly aware of this human tendency from Her beginnings. In response to Christ’s command to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Him, She urges each of us to actively undertake the practices of penance, fasting, and self-denial.
When we deny ourselves comfort and embrace suffering (big or small), we use our will to exercise mastery over our impulses. Our spirit fights back against the flesh which seeks to enslave it. As you listen to the Word of God this Sunday, pray for an open heart: may God’s Word reveal to you any ways in your own life that you have grown complacent or overly comfortable, and where it has led you to neglect your duties toward God and others- especially those in need. May you hear the call of Jesus to embrace the practices of penance, fasting, and self-denial that are appropriate for you according to your state in life.
As with any such practice, start small. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and be gentle with yourself- but not too gentle.
God love you,