12 February – Friday after Ash Wednesday
Thus says the Lord:
Shout for all you are worth,
raise your voice like a trumpet.
Proclaim their faults to my people,
their sins to the House of Jacob.
They seek me day after day,
they long to know my ways,
like a nation that wants to act with integrity
and not ignore the law of its God.
They ask me for laws that are just,
they long for God to draw near:
‘Why should we fast if you never see it,
why do penance if you never notice?’
Look, you do business on your fast-days,
you oppress all your workmen;
look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast
and strike the poor man with your fist.
Fasting like yours today
will never make your voice heard on high.
Is that the sort of fast that pleases me,
a truly penitential day for men?
Hanging your head like a reed,
lying down on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call fasting,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me
– it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters and
undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,
to clothe the man you see to be naked
and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.
Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’
John’s disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast.’
Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over.
Lent is a season which I have a love-hate relationship with. I struggle with making sacrifices sometimes. But yet, it is necessary for our spiritual growth.
In today’s gospel, we hear about fasting, something that we are called to do during every season of Lent. But what should be our motive and intent for fasting? And what does it mean?
For me, fasting, as I have been taught, is to deny ourselves, and remind ourselves that without God we are nothing. Fasting reminds us of our total dependence on God. Of course, it also unites us with the suffering of Jesus when he hung on the cross.
Pope Francis, in his Ash Wednesday Mass homily in 2014, said: “Fasting should exercise the heart to recognise what is absolutely essential and to teach one how to share with others.”
What is absolutely essential in our lives? Is it money, house, car, status? Often, I have to ask myself what is necessary and what is not; what is a must-have and what is a good-to-have.
Fasting can also take on additional forms apart from food. Giving up something that we enjoy doing could be something else we can do during the season of Lent. At the suggestion of a priest a few years back, I gave up accessing Facebook throughout the Lenten season so that I could rid myself of the constant need to be plugged in to my friends’ lives, which could almost be seen as a form of addiction.
The disposition that we take when we fast, is as important as the need to fast. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said: “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.” (Matt 6:16)
Yes, fasting may feel uncomfortable at times when we feel hungry. But let us make this sacrifice during the season of Lent with joy in our hearts. At the same time, let us give thanks to God for the things that we have and the food that we eat. Also, may we remember those who are not as fortunate to have food to eat.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Lee)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we in this season of Lent, grow closer to You through our acts of sacrifice and repentance. Grace us to make these sacrifices with joy in our hearts and help us to unite ourselves with the sufferings of Your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank You for the opportunity to Fast, give Alms and Prayer in this Lenten season. You have given us much more than we could have ever ask for. Help us to be grateful for Your grace and gifts. Amen!