8 Mar – Memorial for St. John of God, religious
Juan (1495-1550) grew up working as a shepherd in the Castile region of Spain. He led a wild and misspent youth, travelling over much of Europe and north Africa as a soldier in the army of Charles V, and a mercenary. He fought through a brief period of insanity. He peddled religious books and pictures in Gibraltar, though without any religious conviction himself.
In his 40s, he received a vision of the Infant Jesus who called him “John of God”. To make up for the misery he had caused as a soldier, he left the military, rented a house in Granada, Spain, and began caring for the sick, poor, homeless and unwanted. He gave what he had, begged for those who couldn’t, carried those who could not move on their own, and converted both his patients and those who saw him work with them.
He was a friend of St. John of Avila, on whom he tried to model his life. John founded the Order of Charity and the Order of Hospitallers of St. John of God.
– Patron Saint Index
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.’
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
The longing of God’s people is there, we have the right intention to want to draw closer to God through self-denial and fasting. However, whatever penance we choose to do, it ought to be more than just an outward act of reparation. Fasting needs to lead to repentance and a true conversion of the spirit, for without which, it is just vain and hypocritical. We all need earnestly to pray for God’s assistance in examining ourselves; in purifying our intentions and motivations. Ultimately, whatever we choose to do as a sacrifice is with the aim of having a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father.
As in today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us not to fast as the Pharisees do, without clear intention and purpose just for the sake of following the laws. Purpose driven actions are imperative, and as Christians, our purpose must be Christ-centered and focussed on our Heavenly Father.
Conversely, be mindful of falling into the trap of thinking we can do without any outward signs. In our egocentricity, convincing ourselves that we do not need any acts of penance and charity, because we are saved and have attained conversion. Pride stands in our way, for if we truly love God and are sorry for our transgressions, then this conversion of the spirit will manifest into works of charity and sacrifice.
For me, a simple way of looking at it is an inside-out conversion journey. Conversion of heart, mind and spirit translates into outward signs of right actions and deeds.
In this season of Lent, let us walk closer to God with Jesus by our side, with purification of our heart every step of the way, and we shall be light of world and salt of the earth.
(Today’s Oxygen by Lorraine Wong)
Prayer – Dear Lord, help us to purify our hearts, to examine our intentions and motivations, for we love you and want to draw closer to you during this season of Lent. We yearn for a deepening of our faith and to come face to face with our Father. In you we draw strength and power. Help us O, Lord.
Thanksgiving – Our Father, we are so grateful for your faithfulness and love. For never abandoning us despite our iniquities, thank you Father.