“What will you be giving up?” was the question posed to my brothers and me as children at the beginning of Lent each year. Whether it was television, sweets, ice-cream or soda, it was a choice to be made and a challenge to embrace. Whether we are adults or children, the denial to self of certain things that we normally and regularly enjoy is good for the soul. It is a powerful means of increasing the strength of the will and igniting the virtues within the soul to function and to produce the good in the sight of Almighty God.
The ‘will’ is an active component of the ‘soul.’ The soul is the thumbprint of Almighty God our Father upon us. It is His unique and treasured gift to each and every human being. It is the soul that instructs the mind as to what is truly good in the sight of Almighty God. It is the soul that moves the heart, then, to choose that which is truly good. And it is the soul, coupled with the human will, that directs the body (the person) to do that which is truly good. When the soul is good, good comes about – when the human will is good, it is moved to bring about the good. Likewise, when the soul is unfocused and listless it cannot properly function for the good and the human will more easily succumbs to temptation and chooses that which is ultimately damaging – which we call sin.
In this day and age it is all too common to hear the words “I couldn’t help it” when one is caught in some indiscretion or sinful activity. Desiring to excuse all responsibility, what it really means is that one’s will power was so anemic and weak that it was unable to resist a wrongful behavior. A weak will is the devil’s best friend and our worst enemy!
To strengthen the will is to gain self-control. Rather than drawing us into whatever pleasures appear before it without hesitation, to control the will is to be able to direct it away from evil and toward the good; in other words, to be able to better resist temptation. The stronger the will, the better it is under our personal control – we are more able to choose the good, avoid evil and walk away from temptation.
The sacrifices that we make during the Season of Lent are not insignificant. They are all a means of strengthening the will. We deny ourselves things that we like and in doing so we take charge of the will. If we are thus able to do this in little things, how much more will we be able to resist when temptations are greater and consequences more damaging?
Personal holiness, inner satisfaction and true happiness are the consequences of doing what is right and good in the eyes of our Lord. Work and sacrifice so that the will power and ability to choose the good might be strengthened during these forty days of Lent.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy On Us!