Dear Parishioners of St. Mary,
What do we want this Lent? Maybe that is a better way of phrasing the fundamental question for Christian spirituality: what do we truly desire with all our heart? The Gospel says: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be.” (Lk. 12:34) Does our treasure lie in Jesus Christ, he who is the “pearl of great price”? (Mt. 13:46) Or have we settled for cheap costume jewelry instead? What do we truly desire? What do we really want out of life?!
St. Jerome, an early Father and Doctor of the Church, wrote a letter to Eustochium, a young Christian woman in 4th-century Rome who was considering a vocation to the religious life. In it he summed up magnificently the challenge of the moral and spiritual life. He wrote: “It is hard for the human soul not to love something, and our mind of necessity must be drawn to some sort of affection. Carnal love is overcome by spiritual love; desire is quenched by desire [“desiderium desiderio restinguitur”].
The problem for most of us is not that our sinful desires are so blazon and out of control. We are not the greatest Scrooges or Machiavellis who ever lived! No, the real problem is that our desire for God is so pale, our longing for what is really Good and Beautiful and True is so weak. And when we are attracted to good, beautiful and true things that God has made, we tend to love them in a way that is often self-centered, disordered and even destructive for them and for us.
This Lent I want to try Jerome’s solution. So normally, for example, if I decide to give up sweets and desserts for Lent, it is amazing how much I can find to replace them with gooey granola bars, 300-calorie Dunkin Donut muffins, and endless bags of Triscuits and Doritos! Maybe our mistake is that we need to focus more on increasing our spiritual desire.
“Desire is quenched by desire.”
Have a holy and grace filled Lent.