Friday, February 15, 2013

“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.” (Isaiah 58: 1-9)

Through Isaiah’s words, God again makes us reflect on fasting, a practice inserted into the Lenten journey. However, it cannot be reduced to a simple abstinence from food, but we must be attentive to not make it a reality so spiritualized that it is useless. Even depriving ourselves at this time of something that we usually eat has its value. We learn to appreciate what we have and, even more, we understand better the difficulties of many brothers and sisters. To give them what we save is not giving what is superfluous, but rather what we deprive ourselves of. It is a gesture of love and therefore cannot be quantified, but it is infinitely superior to any other almsgiving. It also allows us to exercise control over ourselves. I am the one who rules in my house and not my passions, even good ones, by being aware of them and responding with balance and rectitude.

Fasting enters into a more complex process of conversion, a radical re-focusing on God rather than on myself. To do this I must be in control of myself. My interests cede to those of God. The horizon broadens onto the world and my sisters and brothers are restored to their proper place. A more radical fasting imposes itself, silencing the avidity to possess, the immoderate yearning to show off and impose self, the innate need to get my due. It is not a matter of keeping the stomach empty, but of emptying the heart of all that renders it cold toward others.

Today in my pause for silent contemplation, I will reflect that the verb fast must be conjugated on the verb love. It is only in this way that the material act acquires meaning and depth. .

Lord, teach me to play out my life on love. Then nothing will weigh me down and fasting will become wing with which to soar on Your horizons.

The Voice of St. Peter Chrisologus, Church Doctor

Whatever gentles the heart, purifies the flesh, sows virtue, the abstainer will not gather the fruit if rivers of mercy are not allowed to flow.

- Living Scripture