Saint Paul would not likely find many friends in some corners of the Church today – nor would Jesus for that matter. Primarily because they use what our culture would consider harsh language when dealing with sin in the Christian life. Paul uses the language of an elite athlete, the language of self-discipline and severe mortification. Jesus uses very graphic and violent imagery when emphasizing the seriousness of sin and those who excuse it or who would deal with it in a passive manner. As we enter into Lent, it might be a healthy cultural detox for us to meditate on these difficult things and to better understand the mind of God on how we are to wage war against our sin…
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
St. Paul – 1 Corinthians Chapter 9
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Jesus – St. Matthew Chapter 5
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
St. Paul – Hebrews Chapter 12
Since nature opposes what is good, I promise to declare a merciless war against myself. My weapons for the battle will be prayer, the practice of the presence of God, and silence. But, O my Life, You know that I am not skilled in handling these arms. Nevertheless, I will arm myself with sovereign confidence in You, with patience, humility, conformity to Your divine will, and supreme diligence. But where shall I find the aid I need to fight against so many enemies in such a continual battle? Ah! I know! You, my God, proclaim Yourself my Captain, and raising the standard of Your Cross, You lovingly say, ‘Come, follow Me; do not fear’
St Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus
Seek Him – Find Him – Follow Him
Art for this post on Lenten battle: The Anchorite, Teodor Axentowicz, 1881, PD-US author’s term of life plus 75 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.