It is the time of year for getting ready to do our lent traditions to clear our hearts and souls for the coming of our savoir Jesus Christ. This is great! Being the 100th anniversary of Fatima also lends some urgency down the hearts of many faithful, as one of the primary calls Mary made was to repent and do penance for our sins and those of the whole world.
In a series of happy God driven coincidences, I opened a book my dear wife provided me for the first time (I just finished two others...she wants me to get spiritually smarter) The SPIRITUAL COMBAT and A TREATISE ON PEACE OF SOUL by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli. This book is a guidebook for many a religious soul, and a few saints like St. Francis de Sales. In just a few pages it roped me in, and started answering a few questions I've had.
Recently several experiences begged me to look for answers to the the proper understanding of a rule based and spirit based path to heaven. As a law and order type guy my whole life, simply following the rules is a very simple path for my little brain to follow. Do X and receive Y. The problem us law and order people have is this still leaves us short, because to obtain heaven we need nothing less than perfection in our souls as well as our actions!
Rule based paths to heaven are also dangerous to many of us. When we observe and judge people poorly because they are not as "observant," or will not practice the same extreme forms of asceticism we personally choose to do. When we do this, we easily fall into sin because we are comparing and showing off our "holiness." We become modern day Pharisees.
Instead we must carefully chose the form of self denials and rigor of our prayer life to draw us closer to the mysteries of Christ. This type of introspection, combined with strengthening spiritual exercises makes us primed like an soldier for the great battle working in unison with God's commands . We need all the strength possible for our daily battles with the prince of evil who seeks to turn us from the path of God to his by hook or crook.
Our example in all of this can be our dear mother Mary. In the Bible she says but a few words, but attends every major event with our Lord. She faces every temptation and torture a mother can endure, but never gives in to sin Mary also was compliant with the old Law she was born under, and the example of the new law of her son. She silently witnesses and participates in the unfolding of salvation, but never brings the focus to herself. Everything she does assists the Lord as he completes his mission for the world and all people in every age. Her Immaculate Heart always complements, and never overshadows the Sacred Heart of her son and our Lord.
As we go forward into Lent, Mary's Immaculate Heart example should guide us towards heaven. Accept the hardships of the fallen world, but never waver from following the law of God. We also will remember to seek greater understanding of God in all things we observe and do, and to bring God's graces to all those we meet.