How often do each of us cry out in our prayers with all our heart, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me...Lord, that I may see"? Jesus allowed the blind man to grow fervent in his prayers by allowing the man to follow him and beg him for this gift of physical sight, as an example to the rest that followed him. Our Lord heard that there was silence even in the hearts of those following him, that they were not crying out of the depths of their souls that they may see with spiritual eyes. They were so satiated by their senses, thinking only of the things of this life and not of the eternal, that Jesus used a blind man to humble them.
"At that time Jesus took unto Him the twelve and said to them: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished which were written by the Prophets concerning the Son of man. For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon: and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to death, and the third day He shall rise again. And they understood none of those things, and this word was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said. Now it came to pass, when He drew night to Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the wayside, begging. And when he heard the multitude passing by, he asked what this meant.
And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. And they that went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace. But he cried out much more: Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus standing, commanded him to be brought unto Him. And when he was come near, He asked him, saying: What wilt thou that I do to thee? But he said: Lord, that I may see. And Jesus said to him: Receive thy sight, thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he saw and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God." -- Gospel reading of Quinquagesima Sunday. :Luke 18:31-43
THE GIFT OF UNDERSTANDING comes from another gift; that of purity. Purity disposes a soul the ability to receive the gift of understanding. One can grow in purity by asking for this grace, and abiding in it through moderation of the senses, prayer of quiet (daily), daily recitation of the rosary and penance and mortification. Mortification of the senses, in particular, of taste, is and has always been the ordinarily most effective means towards active purification.
Fasting and other abstinence from foods that we particularly like, even foods that are good for us, can help us better dispose ourselves to receiving this gift of 'sight'. This gift of understanding helps us to better know, love and serve God.
First Sunday in Lent*
"Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish!" -- Jesus Christ
Fasting and abstinence are the penances that give voice to our soul's craving of being ever more united to Jesus and his Mystical Body. These proactive, little sufferings both cry out to the Lord and dispose us to receive his graces when he responds.
"Brethren: We exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith; In an accepted time have I heard thee, and in the day of salvation have I helped thee. Behold, now is the acceptable time..." --- Epistle for First Sunday in Lent (in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite), II Cor. 6:1-10.
Penance, particularly fasting and abstinence, and more over, fasting and abstinence during the time of Lent (when certain graces are more readily and abundantly given to those fortunate souls who abide in the Church and Christ's command for us to do penance), not only disposes us to God's graces, but strengthens us in natural virtues to resist temptations. Our own wilderness lies within our very own selves to the degree that we suffer from the slavery due to both illicit and licit passions to which we have disordered attachments.
Temptations do not only come to us as things that are objectively sinful, but also in things that are lawful, but misused or used as an end to themselves. We must recognize that we are to continue to make conversion of our own hearts through purifying our disordered appetites.
Lord, hold before our eyes the remembrance that you permitted yourself to be tempted, although exteriorly, that we may will ourselves to become interiorly strengthened spiritually by this time of fasting and abstinence. This fight is the preparation for the battles that you have already chosen for us, so that we may endeavor to "win the crown".
Blessed Mother of God, pray on our behalf to your Son, that we may not fail our Lenten service, that we shall put our trust in God and in His promise that He will command His angels to watch over us and keep us on the narrow path chosen for each of us.
Let us, therefore, accept that battle. May we come to have hearts so full of the Immortal Goodness of the one, true God that all earthly joy is bitter without Him, that we should long less for them and more for the Creator than created goods. And, let us also trust in Him, that through any bitterness we do not lose any of the fight, but recognize Christ's willingness to be small for our sakes, especially in Holy Communion which strengthens us for the battle.
THE Lord will overshadow thee with His shoulders, and under His wings thou shalt trust; His truth shall compass thee with a shield.
WE solemnly offer to Thee, O Lord, the Sacrifice of the beginning of Lent, beseeching Thee: that, while we curtail our eating of meat, we may abstain also from harmful pleasures. Through our Lord.
--Same as the Offertory--
MAY the holy reception of Thy Sacrament, O Lord, so restore us that we may be purified from our former ways and join the company of the redeemed. Through our Lord.
Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D., a most famous student of the late, great, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, wrote in Divine Intimacy, "Nunc coepi --- "now have I begun," or rather: "now I begin"; let us repeat it humbly, and may the experience of our past failures make us place our trust in God alone."
Let us say to each of our souls with our whole hearts, minds, and bodies: "Nunc coepi..."