Penance is a word which can make us shudder: we imagine severe restrictions or, worse, mortifications to the body which were practiced long ago. And while it is true that St. Margaret Mary imposed some rather harsh restrictions on herself, there is merit to the spiritual reasons behind penance.
We live in a world of instant gratification; some days the microwave seems to take too long! We are used to doing our shopping and paying our bills with the click of a button, getting cash instantly from an ATM at any time of the day or night, being in constant contact with the world on our cell phones, and not moving from our couches as we surf through hundreds of television channels. We want, we get! So it really is a necessary thing that we force ourselves to put the brakes on a little, to temper ourselves so we can see and accept the things that God wants for us.
Giving of ourselves by renouncing some of our comforts keeps us fit spirituality, and there are ways in which we can all practice this: to smile when we are tired, to forgo a snack or meal when we are hungry, to go out of our way for someone without complaint, to not get upset when our plans are interrupted. All these strengthen our resolve to love. Another Saint, Peter of Alcantara, once said: When the body becomes heavy and satiated, the soul finds its mount in poor condition for the ride to heaven.” How true! When we continually give in to the demands of our bodies for more food, more sleep, more inactivity, our bodies take control of us. And if we are constantly placating the physical, how can we nourish the spiritual?
Today, subdue your body for the health of your soul, and do it with love...
St. Margaret Mary, pray for us!