The virtue of temperance is necessary to the Christian who would live according to the law of God. When this virtue is wanting, the spirit becomes the slave of the flesh. It can no longer relish things divine; for, says St. Paul, "the sensual man perceiveth not the things that are of the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. ii, 14.) In fact, gluttony and gross living naturally tend to the obscuring of the intellect and to the quenching of spiritual light. It is vain, therefore, to look for wisdom among those that live in luxury and abundance: "Wisdom is not found in the land of them that live in delight." (Job, xxviii, 18.) Moreover intemperance, by exciting a wild gaiety, often provokes bickering’s and dissensions, and it is a known fact that gluttony takes a greater toll of human lives than does disease. But what is still worse, intemperance excites in man all kinds of impure thoughts, which find vent in words, gestures and actions contrary to holy modesty; it hardens the heart and prepares the way to eternal perdition.
THE Church teaches us that the Christian must all submit in expiation of our sins. Our divine Redeemer Himself impressed upon us this great truth when He said: "Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish." (Luke xiii. 3.) The object of penance is, in the first place, to lead us to refrain ourselves, in so far as reason and faith demand, from the inordinate desire of sensual pleasure, to which our fallen nature is inclined. So strong is this inclination, that we are ever in danger of falling into the slough of vice. How many Christians, alas, by following their unbridled imagination, lose both soul and body together! Wherefore, Holy Church imposes upon us the obligation of fasting, putting us in mind of the advantages which accrue from this salutary penance to which we practice. Fasting, in effect, "represses vices, raises our thoughts heavenward, makes easy the practice of virtue, and is a constant source of merit." (Preface for Lent.) As Mary was not tainted with original sin, she did not experience in herself this disorderly proneness to the pleasures of sense, the baneful consequence of the sin of our first parents. Being full of grace, she maintained always the just balance of the powers of her soul. She performed all her actions with ease and delight, not having to use violence with herself, in order to preserve that even poise of the faculties, which reason arid the law of God demand. Nevertheless, Mary subjected herself willingly to the law of penance and mortification, denying herself those. Her life was one long series of privations and self-denials. Her fasting and abstinence was continual. She only allowed herself what was necessary to maintain life. She mortified all her senses, so that it were hard to say in what particular kind of mortification she excelled, in modesty of the eyes, in lowliness of demeanor, in the sparingness of her words or in the dignity of her gestures. It was natural, then, that her Heavenly Bridegroom should find in her all His delight. And as the fruit of this temperance, Mary acquired an extraordinary facility in conversing familiarly with her Well-Beloved, a heavenly joy which was depicted on her countenance, a virginal beauty which radiated from her whole presence, a something so indescribably sweet and majestic, that it gave to her an aspect rather divine than human: "How beautiful art thou my love, how beautiful art thou! Thine eyes are as doves' eyes, besides what is hid within!" (Cant. iv, 1.)
Reflect: "To be fully a disciple of Jesus means not only accepting and believing his message, but also taking up and participating in the mission of encountering and inviting others to join our pilgrim journey to his heavenly kingdom." —His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington
Pray: Add this "O Antiphon" to your daily or meal-time prayer today: "O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!" (Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, Revised Edition, 77)
Act: Pope Francis said of evangelization: "It is not the mission of only a few, but it is mine, yours and our mission." Carry the lessons learned about evangelization into the Christmas season and beyond.
49 Godly Character Traits
Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it (Romans 12:21)