Now that my life has settled down, the blog is back.
Today is the first Friday of Lent, and it is good to see that even the fast food places are still recognizing that Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. Take note of all the fish sandwich commercials. But what's the point? Why do we even need to do these kinds of things.
The answer is simple. We need abstinence and other forms of mortification because we are bodily creatures. We are not angels. We are not purely spiritual beings. Nor are we purely material, reducible to biochemistry. We are composites: body and spirit.
Scripture reading, prayer, mediation and the grace of sacraments are great ways of transforming the spirit. But that is only half the story.
The catechism speaks of two conversions. The first is at baptism. But even after baptism there remains in each of us the inclination to sin. And so there must be what is called "second conversion."
This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, "clasping sinners to her bosom, (is) at once holy and always in need of purification, (and) follows constantly the path of penance and renewal."This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.
Our second conversion is the struggle that goes on throughout our earthly life. It involves soul and body, prayer and mortification of the body. The abstinence from meat that the Church asks us to observe during Lent is the minimum.
Each day during the Lenten Season we are called to involve our entire self (body and soul) in penance, second conversion. Not eating meat may seem an arbitrary and insignificant gesture. But as simple as it is, when combined with prayer it can have a powerful effect, and leading us ever closer to our ultimate goal.