Friday after Ash Wednesday
IS 58: 1-9 A
PS: 51: 3-4, 5-6 AB, 18-19
MT 9: 14-15
A common theme in both today’s first reading and Gospel is the act of fasting. As a 20-year-old college woman with a big appetite, fasting isn’t something that necessarily sounds very appealing to me. When I think of fasting, I immediately think of no snacking, eating extremely healthy, and being careful about my portions. Possibly this Lenten season, some people have already decided to fast in different ways. Some people may give up luxury things or addicting foods to fast from, as every person can view fasting in a different light.
Last week, just days before Lent began, I came across one of those articles on Facebook that about 17 of your friends have shared, so you know it must be important. This time it wasn’t the super high-tech new SLU video that just went viral, but rather an article called “Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year.” As I had just begun the thinking and reflecting process of what I personally wanted to do for Lent this year, I immediately was intrigued knowing that Papa Francisco would definitely have some good and challenging insight for us. And of course, he did.
In this article, Pope Francis shares some new ways of fasting this Lenten season. This time it wasn’t holding back on the candy and chocolate, cutting out the carbs, or giving up warm showers, this time it was about one another rather than ourselves. It was about doing good for the people around us and sharing Christ with each other. This year, our leader in the Catholic church has challenged us to not make fasting become superficial, but rather “reconsider the heart of this activity this Lenten season.” And he encourages us to do this by fasting from indifference towards one another. In his Lenten message he says, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.” Pope Francis shares with the people that when we fast from this indifference towards others, we can begin to feast on love. If we do no good to others, we do nothing great. Today’s first reading from Isaiah tells us, “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” He doesn’t talk about food, but rather he talks about acts of kindness towards one another.
So I hope your Lent this year is off to a great start. Although we are already a few days in, it’s not too late to begin something new. Take the words of our reading and gospel today, and the words from our church leader, to challenge yourself into a new way of fasting and relationship with Christ and one another.
Betty Goodwin is a Junior studying Education and Theology.