As a mother, Mary, the Queen of Peace, thanks us for our Lenten renunciations. Mother Mary thanks us because she loves us. Only a heart filled with love can be a grateful heart. We should be thanking her for her encouragement, her call and love, her interceding with her son Jesus for us. She calls us because it is her desire that we continue to live fasting. She speaks to us about it and calls us to fast and make renunciations for ourselves and because of us, for our happiness and joy.
"By fasting and renunciation, little children you will be stronger in faith", – Heavenly Mother says to us. Fasting and renunciation are necessary in order for us to earn God's mercy. Our renunciation is like a bowl into which God pours His mercy. Blessed Mother Teresa said: "We need to be emptied before God can fill us". Fasting and renunciation are our part of the job in faith. Saint Augustine teaches us: "God created us without our aid; but he did not choose to save us without our aid." In Lent we should practise self-renunciation and do penance as if our salvation depends solely on us, but pray as if our salvation and everything else depends solely on God. Praying without self-renunciation is just like stopping halfway. It is as if you were rowing in a boat tied to the shore. We shall never move until the boat is untied. We cannot empty our body of sins nor eliminate sins from the world we live in. But we can die to sin and then He no longer has authority over us. Renunciation is dying to sin.
When Our Lady speaks to us about renunciation, she does not have in mind the mere physical penance and renunciation, but the spiritual side of it. The mere physical penance and fasting are not enough. They may lead us to arrogance, pharisaism and formalism. They may make us want to display our strength, not to subdue our will to God's will. Therefore in one of her messages Our Lady says to us: "Little children, fasting has become a custom which no one wants to stop. Fast with the heart." Fasting and love are indivisible. One cannot fast without love, nor can one love without fasting in its broadest sense. Prayer is also our answer to God's love. That is why fasting and prayer are inseparable. Fasting without prayer is a mere slimming diet. By fasting without prayer we in fact just revolve around ourselves. Fasting turns all our spiritual forces and powers of the heart, all of our inner being towards God.
Our Lent should not finish with Easter. Setting our mind on fasting and living it means to struggle for freedom. It will not mean much if we renounce some of our bad habits only during the time of Lent, whereas we continue pursuing them afterwards. If this is the case, our renunciation can become self-deceit. One may indulge in arrogance and self-sufficiency and say to oneself: "I am strong, I can do that. " Lent then becomes just another break of this habit, while there has been no change in the man himself. Fasting and renunciation is not proving your strength, but subduing your will to God's will. The best and the most fruitful renunciation is denying one's own self. Even Jesus will say: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself." (Mark 8 : 34).
The Virgin Mary comes and speaks to us not to steal something from us or to deprive us of our joys of life. She comes because she wants us to be happy, normal and free in God. Let us thank Mary from the bottom of our hearts because she has not become weary with us. Let us not become tired of everyday responding to the call of our Heavenly Mother.
Fr. Ljubo Kurtović
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