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We need to be more aware of this particular aspect of our life. We need to live a life of penance for the simple reason that in spite of our best intentions and efforts, we will always be harassed by our own weaknesses, mistakes and sins, both big and small.
We need to say sorry to God and to everybody else, and to make some atonement and reparation for the unavoidable harm and damage our wounded nature can cause. We have to learn to do this with utmost naturalness, without making a big fuss about of it.
There is actually no vacation in this predicament of ours. And while the Church highlights this aspect of our spiritual and Church life during Lent, we should understand that penance is not to be done only in Lent or Advent or on some special occasions.
Penance should be an integral part of our life. It has to be with us all the time, like the beating of heart or our very breathing. It's a clear manifestation that our love for God, and actually also for the others, is true and abiding, not just a put-on and sporadic.
Cultivating a penitential life can only spring from a realistic view of things. It's not a product of some extraordinary gift or privilege such that only a few are supposed to be concerned about it. We all have to cultivate a penitential life.
At the moment, this topic remains largely taboo. It's not talked about, and thus our understanding of it, not to mention, the skills we need to acquire to live it, remains in the primitive, anal stage. We have to overcome this problem.
Also, this penitential life should be understood as needed not only by us individually and personally, as if it is just a private affair, but by us all together as well, in the many expressions of our collective life, be it in the family, in the community, in our professional and even our political, social, economic and cultural life.
We have to understand that our life would not be complete, humanly and especially spiritually speaking, if this spirit of penance is not developed and nourished, if it is ignored and taken for granted, both in our individual, personal life as well as in our collective life.
And so, we need to realize that while we of course should create awholesome, positive atmosphere wherever we are, we ought to be concerned about how to live this indispensable aspect of penance. Even in our parties and fun, this penitential aspect should somehow be present.
Truth is that cultivating a penitential life, far from darkening our lives or dampening our spirit or spoiling our enthusiasm, purifies us and puts us in a much better condition, removing the illusions and delusions that we many times succumb due to our weaknesses and sins.
The spirit of penance strengthens us. It makes us more mature. It unites us more closely to Christ whose passion and death constitutes the extreme of divine love for us, since it represents God in Christ assuming our sinfulness, and dying to it only to rise from death, liberating us in the process from our bondage to sin.
But we need to understand also that this redemptive work of Christ, while fully is own, is also ours. We are expected, we are called to join him. Christ himself said that if we want to follow him, we have to deny ourselves and to carry the cross.
The good thing about cultivating this penitential life is that it canbe done anytime, anywhere. We have to disabuse ourselves from the idea that penance always involves painful, extraordinary efforts, like flagellating and crucifying ourselves as done in some places during Holy Week.
The penitential life can be developed in the normal daily routine of ours. It starts with our awareness of our sinfulness and the need to purify ourselves of it. Then we can take advantage of the usual flow of events that would ask us some sacrifice, some self-giving, some self-denial.
We can eat and drink a little less than usual, for example. Or we can resolve to follow a schedule for the day when we tend to be carefree and simply to drift wherever the current takes us. Or we can just maintain a better posture, control our wild imagination, etc.
Of course, the best way we can live and cultivate this penitential life is to go to confession regularly. There, contrition which is the core of penance, is best lived.