The world seduces us with pleasures and comforts that are easy to say “yes” to. As human beings we have made such a habit of saying “yes” to the world that in many places we are no longer able to say “no.” We have lost our freedom. Thankfully Christ, the great liberator, has a roadmap that leads back to the freedom we were made for.
Even better yet, Christ modelled that roadmap for us — a life of prayer, asceticism (acts of self denial), and fraternity —and now he offers his roadmap to you.
Prayer, asceticism, and fraternity are primary pillars of Christ’s roadmap to freedom. They exist in the Old Testament, the Apostles instructed the faithful on them in their New Testament letters, and God himself came down from heaven to sanctify them even further by modelling them for us in the Gospels. As accessible as these three pillars are to us, they consistently prove themselves to be far from easy to take up or sustain.
Take a moment to pause and reflect on Lenten seasons gone by. How did you do during Lent last year? Did you stick faithfully to all the acts of prayer, penance, and almsgiving that you set out to do? How about after Lent; did you sustain any of the penitential practices into the rest of the liturgical year? For most of us, if we are being totally honest, the answer to both of these questions is, at best, “not really.”
When it comes to living out spiritual practices such as prayer, or penance, we are more likely to live them out well if we have someone to hold us accountable to them.
Do you want to grow in your spiritual life? What are some practices you’d like to take up? Write these down and then share them with someone, or a group if you have it, whom you trust. Ask that person, or those people, to hold you accountable to the life you are setting out to live. This should not be a point of pride, but of humility. “I can’t do this myself, I need your help and God’s grace.”
What about when Lent comes to a close, does all penance stop? Ask a Franciscan friar, or a Poor Clare nun. As Christians it is important to live a life of both fasting and feasting. We feast because Christ conquered death and won eternal freedom for those who accept it. We fast because we are still human, and the choice to live in freedom or slavery is still ours to make at every moment of every day. This balance is important to hold throughout life. The Church helps us to learn this balance by providing us with many feast days throughout the year intermingled with times of penance, namely the season of Lent and Fridays throughout the entire year. That’s right, Fridays throughout the entire year are considered times of penance (see Code of Canon Law #1250). So what are we doing throughout the year to live in accord with our call to balance feasting with fasting?
We must make a plan to follow Christ’s roadmap to freedom. A plan that includes elements of all three pillars: prayer, asceticism, and fraternity.
If you want to see what a plan looks like, take a look at Exodus 90. Exodus 90 is a ninety day spiritual exercise for men. It is meant to free men from slavery to the things of this world and begin forming them to live a life of prayer, asceticism, and fraternity year round. Within the exercise are a specific set of disciplines for prayer, asceticism, and fraternity. Men who are called to do Exodus 90 will bring together a group of 5-7 men in their area and take up these disciplines for 90 days. Each day they will be provided a small excerpt from the Book of Exodus accompanied by a reflection. The reflection helps them to better understand God’s word and guide them through this freeing ninety day journey.
In the past 14 months over 20,000 men have taken up Exodus 90; deciding that they’re done with trying to live the Christian life on their own. Whether you take up Exodus 90 or not, you are called to live Christ’s roadmap to freedom: prayer, asceticism, and fraternity. That is, you are called to live the Christian life, in lent, and throughout all of the year. Not because life should be hard, but because you were made to be free, and freedom is worth sacrificing for.
For more on the Exodus 90 Spiritual Exercise go to Exodus 90.com or download the Exodus 90 App in the Apple App or Google Play store today.
Nathaniel Binversie – Author of the Exodus 90 Spiritual Exercise
You can read more about him and the team behind Exodus 90 here.
The Parousia Hour: Nathaniel Binversie – Exodus 90
Charbel discusses ‘Exodus 90’ – A 90 day Spiritual Journey For Men – with Nathaniel Binversie, who is the Exodus 90 Director of Mission and author of the Exodus 90 Daily Reflections.