Go Within along with Doing Without

An Additional Practice for Lent 2022

Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the Good News That the Kingdom of God has begun!”Mk 1:15

The Greek word used in the Scriptures of Mark and Matthew for “repent” is metanoia and it is commonly understood as “a transformative change of heart and mind. This might be interpreted subjectively requiring discernment and reflection about what the individual believes is necessary to become a better disciple of Jesus or in some cases to become a better Catholic, Methodist, or a better member of any denomination or group calling itself “Christian.”

According to the USCCB (United States Conference of Bishops: “Lent is a 40 day season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. It’s a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter. During Lent, we seek the Lord in prayer by reading Sacred Scripture; we serve by giving alms; and we practice self-control through fasting. We are called not only to abstain from luxuries during Lent, but to a true inner conversion of heart as we seek to follow Christ’s will more faithfully. We recall the waters of baptism in which we were also baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.”

The English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word lencten, meaning “spring season. Early Christianity records the tradition of fasting before Easter baptisms. The Apostolic Constitutions permit the consumption of “bread, vegetables, salt and water, in Lent” with “flesh and wine being forbidden”. The Canons of Hippolytus authorize only bread and salt to be consumed during Holy Week. The practice of fasting and abstaining from alcohol, meat and lacticinia  (any parts of an animal) during Lent thus the tradition of eating only fish, vegetables, oats and the like in some cultures.

Lent, as a liturgical season, was created at the Council of Nicea in 325  due to periods of fasting prior to baptisms which were then celebrated at the Easter celebration.

Lenten practices were expanded as time went on to include those activities mentioned above. The ritual of wearing sackcloth and ashes and putting ashes on the forehead became popular as an indication or notice that the person was repentant and honoring the Lenten fast.

“The liturgical use of ashes originated in the Old Testament times.  Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality, and penance. 

For instance, in the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes, 485-464 B.C.) of Persia to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Esther 4:1). 

Job (whose story was written between the 7th and 5th centuries B.C.) repented in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6). 

Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel (c. 550 B.C.) wrote, “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). 

In the 5th century B.C., after Jonah’s preaching of conversion and repentance, the town of Nineveh proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, and the king covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the ashes (Jonah 3:5-6). 

These Old Testament examples evidence both a recognized practice of using ashes and a common understanding of their symbolism.” For more go to: https://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-are-the-origins-of-ash-wednesday-and-the-use-of-ashes/ 

The emphasis on repentance always seems so negative. “Do without this or that as a penance.” Fast, abstain, and even self imposed mortification or subduing one’s bodily desires.

The positive elements focused on repetition prayer like the rosary, novenas, and the Stations of the Cross. Such prayers and rituals would indicate to ones self and others that one is upright and adheres to the Laws of God and the Church which are required to be a “good Catholic.”

Yet what does Jesus say to the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who asked:”Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In other words, why doesn’t he obey the prescriptions for being a “good Jew”? “On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mt 9:12-13 It seems that Jesus wanted positive rather than negative behavior.

Eating with tax collectors and sinners

Jesus was a Jew who knew what the prophets had preached: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

So when Jesus told his disciples to “repent” he meant more than do without or do some penance! He meant change your heart and mind by changing your attitude toward religion and the Law. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mk 2:27

Many denominations of Christianity interpreted metanoia differently.

Lutherans consider metanoia as a change of one’s character or even lifestyle if either are not in keeping with Christian virtue and conduct.

Calvin thought of metanoia as involving denying oneself, turning to God, laying aside the old ways, and putting on Christ.

The Greek Orthodox Church teaches a reorientation of one’s outlook on life, a fundamental transformation of one’s vision of the world, and finding new ways of loving and serving fellow humans.

Some ancient texts like the Shepherd of Hermas implied a “great understanding” of discernment in important matters. Some even suggested various activities, devotions, and practices that would increase one’s ability to be a more dedicated disciple of Jesus.

Most would agree that whatever the definition, “metanoia” means changes in the way one understands the Word of God or the world. It may involve a change in the way one treats family and friends. Metanoia may mean treating the planet with care and concern by refraining from fossil fuels, cleaning up highways or areas polluted by trash and so much more.

Ultimately, it boils down to a change in attitude toward self and others, which may be a way of “Loving God, and your neighbor as yourself.” 

One way that Catholics would begin Lent was to purge oneself of such “sins” as the Capital Sins listed in the image at the left.

The intent of such purging was to open oneself to the Grace of God.

The Fruits of the Spirit are usually considered the result of God’s grace or gifts. “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“The Greek word translated “fruit” refers to the natural product of a living thing. Paul used “fruit” to help us understand the product of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside every believer. The fruit of the Spirit is produced by the Spirit, not by the Christian. The Greek word is singular, showing that “fruit” is a unified whole, not independent characteristics. As we grow, all the characteristics of Christ will be manifested in our lives.

Yet, like physical fruit, this “fruit” needs time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight. Like a successful gardener must battle against weeds to enjoy the sweet fruit they desire, we must constantly work to rid our lives of the “weeds” of our old sin natures that want to choke out the work of the Spirit.”

For the Catholic, this means participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist as well as various devotions like novenas, the Stations of the Cross, and the Rosary. Also recommended is spiritual reading, acts of service, and alms giving.

However, what is overlooked by many is the transformation that results from psychological and physical therapy which  helps one become aware of their personal behaviors that affect the health and well-being of their mind, body, and soul.

That being the case, I offer some practices that can be used to change one’s mental and spiritual understanding about the self and the world. There are many ways to change our attitudes and behavior. Two such ways that can shed light on one’s personality involve the use of  personality inventories.

The Enneagram

The Enneagram is a system of personality typing that describes patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions. The Enneagram describes nine personality types and maps each of these types on a nine-pointed diagram which helps to illustrate how the types relate to one another.

Infographic vectors about The Enneagram, complete with directions, traits and names by Riso-Hudson. For more information go to the official website to The Enneagram Institute. All credit for the text goes to them.

For more: https://www.truity.com/enneagram/what-is-enneagram#:~:text=Definition%20and%20Meaning,types%20relate%20to%20one%20another.

https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions  $12 cost

https://tests.enneagraminstitute.com/

https://www.crystalknows.com/enneagram-test  Free

Fowler’s Faith Inventory

According to Fowler, there are six primary stages of faith in the life of the individual.  They are as follows:

https://waterloocatholics.org/stages-in-faith-development

Learn More

Download a self-assessment which might help you decide what stage you are at or what stage you are yearning for. https://d2y1pz2y630308.cloudfront.net/5554/documents/2019/5/Stages%20Evaluation.pdf

Read “Doubt–A Necessary Tool for Growth.” https://cac.org/doubt-a-necessary-tool-for-growth-2021-02-01/

Learn how growing in faith sometimes feels like losing your faith. https://waterloocatholics.org/losing-my-faith

Use this inventory to determine if you’re ready to grow into a new stage of faith: https://ec-prod-site-cache.s3.amazonaws.com/static/waterloocatholics.org/documents/2021/6/Spiritual32Guidance32Inventory.pdf

Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola

“The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola are a means of opening oneself to the work of God in one’s life. Ignatius, a Basque nobleman of the late 15th and early 16th centuries underwent a powerful spiritual conversion in his late twenties. Recovering from a battle wound over the course of many months, Ignatius spent hours contemplating his life’s purpose and the compelling examples set by saints such as Dominic and Francis. He determined to leave the life of privilege to which he had become accustomed, and commended himself and all of his energies to serving God. Ignatius’ desire was to “help souls” and he engaged in spiritual conversation with almost anyone he met. The experience of his own conversion led Ignatius to share what he learned with others and, eventually, refine his personal prayer journal into what we now call the Spiritual Exercises.

For more: https://www.marquette.edu/mission-ministry/explore/spiritual-exercises.php

The Benefits of Self Knowledge become the Building Blocks of Self: Your VITALS

“The capital letters in “VITAL Signs” form an acronym for the six building blocks of the self, or VITALS, for short. The letters stand for Values, Interests, Temperament, Around-the-Clock, Life Mission and Goals, and Strengths/Skills.” Psychology Today March 9, 2016 Meg Selig For more go to:

Going Within can have great practical results that can make your Lenten observance change your life in ways that you never thought Lent could do!

About Dr. Ernie Sherretta, D. Min.

Retired Director of Religious Education for the Catholic Church since 2014, granted a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Spiritual Well-Being Counselor
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