February 9, 2016
Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth?
If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you,
how much less this temple which I have built!
1 Kings 8:27
Does anyone else feel kind of bummed when they realize Lent is about to start? Especially when you're finally admitting to yourself that the groundhog was wrong and winter is here to stay for a bit longer (at least it's nothing like last year's winter of doom--let us not speak of it). "Really, Lord?" we might say. "Isn't the dreariness of February penitential enough?"
But the fact that we are able to do penance with our bodies is a pretty amazing concept, theologically. Even in the Old Testament, the faithful fasted and covered themselves with ashes to do penance. And now, post-Incarnation, we become dwelling places of the Holy Spirit, and we are able to join, in a small way, our own sufferings to Christ's for the salvation of souls. I share in the amazement of Solomon above--the heavens and earth cannot contain God, and yet he chooses to dwell within us! This makes everything we do with our bodies significant, including what we (don't) eat or drink or do for the season of Lent.
As is apparent in his letters, Pier Giorgio was a man who fully embraced the seasons of the Church. I remember reading about his ski trip during Carnevale when he feasted with his friends, and I'm sure he applied the same fervor to his Lenten practices. I wonder if part of the reason for that fervor was due to his awareness of his own privilege and his interaction with the poor. He saw in his fasting, perhaps, both the spiritual significance as well as the opportunity to unite with his fellow man who lived in hunger.
And we are all hungry, aren't we? The fasting just reminds us that we are already in a continual state of hunger, a hunger that will not be satisfied until we are one with the Lord. And so we can begin Lent joyfully, with the hope that through our penances God might tell us more about Himself and more about ourselves. We need not feel dread, but rather expectation, because by making ourselves humble beggars before Him, we cannot predict what He will give us.