Ash Wednesday (Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18)
FAST FROM …AND FEAST ON….
Lent once again reminds us of the three traditional means to make us holy: Prayer,Fasting, and almsgiving. We wish our prayers to be heard.
St.Augustine says: “If you wish your prayer to fly to God, give two wings: fasting, almsgiving.”
Giving up and taking up are the two aspects of our Lenten discipline.
If we are giving up something for Lent, it is our sins that we have to give up. Remember that ‘sin’ means to ‘miss the mark’ or goal of how we should be living. Take up more prayer and almsgiving.
St.Madeleine Sophie Barat says, “The more we have denied ourselves during the day, the nearer we are each evening to the heart of our Lord.”
Ash Wednesday is a day of decision. Whatever we decide to give up during Lent, we are doing it to reform our lives. If giving up has no appeal because it sounds too much like a diet, ‘take up’ instead.
Giving up, fasting or taking up can teach us self-discipline. So it is a start. Although we long to perform grand and magnificent acts of love, may we still take all the tiny opportunities for love that each day brings.
Pray… Fast… Give: The true meaning of prayer, fasting and almsgiving:
Prayer: The Lenten season calls us to pray. But prayer, Jesus teaches, is much more than saying words. “Go into your room, and close the door and pray to your Father in secret.”
Before you pray, enter the inner room of your heart. Shut the door to the noise, the trivialities, the countless cares competing for attention. Put them aside. In the quite place of your heart, with faith as your guide, speak to your God. A gracious Father listens, and he knows what you need.
More time given to prayer during Lent should draw us closer to the Lord. We might pray especially for the grace to live out our baptismal promises more fully.
Fasting: “When you fast do not look gloomy”, says Jesus. Today’s consumer society looks on fasting itself as gloomy. Urging everyone to eat, drink and buy more and more, our world today has made fasting unfashionable.
Yet the gospel message says too much of material wealth can distract us from what is truly essential. An acquisitive spirit is a selfish spirit. In our acquisitive, pleasure-oriented society, fasting is a way of keeping ourselves free. This Lent, recognizing the hold things have on us, let us try, with God’s help, to keep them in their right place.
Some reasonable abstaining from food, drink and entertainments can help us to do that.
Fasting should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures those who are in need for any reason.
Thus fasting, too, is linked to living out our baptismal promises. By our baptism, we are charged with the responsibility of showing Christ’s love to the world, especially to those in need.
Almsgiving: Giving alms, Jesus teaches, means making the needs of others our own, especially the needy of our world. They are all around us: children and the old, sick and the suffering, families and individuals, next-door neighbors and people in lands far away.
And what shall we give? Perhaps, we can give some of our time, talent, and material resources. Almsgiving is not just for the rich. Poor or rich, we shall have something to give. Whatever we give, though, should be something of ourselves, something that costs us.
Are Fasting and abstinence the only ways of doing penance?
There are a thousand ways, besides fast and abstinence, of doing penance:-
To fulfill one’s own duties well. To follow the rules where we live.
To accept with patience the difficulties of one’s own life / family life.
To bear sickness for God’s love.
To bear patiently with people who cause us harm and so on.
While we fast from certain things, it is time to feast on other things. I suggest the following:
Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling in others.
Fast on emphasis on differences; Feast on the unity of all life.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on words that purify.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from idle gossip; Feast on the purposeful silence.
How can you expect to breathe in, if you refuse to breathe out? Breathing is a kind of giving and receiving.
Story: Some friends who went deer-hunting separated into pairs for the day. That night one hunter returned alone, staggering under the weight of a big deer. “Where’s Harry?” asked another hunter. “Oh, he fainted a couple of miles up on the trail,” Harry’s partner answered. “And you left him lying there all alone and carried the deer back?” “A tough call,” said the hunter, “but I figure no one’s going to steal Harry.” Which is more valuable, Harry or the deer?
LENT can be described as “Let’s Eliminate Negative Thoughts.” Of course, Lent is a time to positively think about our lives.
Let us discern and choose the right path and course of action at the right time.Amen.