March 3, 2017
Friday after Ash Wednesday
A broken, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn (Psalm 51).
Jesus was a disciple. As a boy, and later as a young man, he learned from Scripture and from the rabbis. When Jesus got separated from his parents in Jerusalem, “they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening... asking them questions.”
How did his heart resonate to these words from Isaiah 58: 1-9?
This the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice...to let the oppressed go free.... to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house....
Was he thinking of this when he announced his mission to the people he grew up with in Nazareth:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Jesus came with good news. It was light and life.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly... the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am.”
Jesus came with good news. He knew it was good news: the Good News. And Lent is a time to hear it. What is it, essentially? In a nutshell?
In Matthew 9: 14-15 Jesus tells us it is relationship. The heart and soul of Christianity is relationship — first with Jesus himself, and through him with God as Father and with the Spirit as indwelling Advocate and Guide.
The Pharisees — and those who grew up under their influence — saw religion as doing. If you did the right things you were religious. If you didn’t, you weren’t. And the “right things” were spelled out in the Law. If we look, we may find the same attitude in ourselves.
The disciples of John the Baptizer reflected this assumption when they asked, “Why is it that while we and the Pharisees fast, your disciples do not?” It was taken for granted that if you were “holy,” fasting was what you did.
Jesus said no. Nothing makes us “holy” but relationship with God. And he made that the same as relationship with himself. Fasting, he taught, is not just something you do; fasting is to express something. What it expresses is the “mourning” of unsatisfied spiritual hunger, longing for himself: “How can the wedding guests go in mourning so long as the groom is with them?” But “When the day comes that the groom is taken away, then they will fast.”
Lent invites us to ask what all our actions express, beginning with our religious actions. Why do we go to Mass? To “be there” or to interact with God? (The reality of relationship is interaction). Interact how? In how many ways? How in the Introductory Rites? How during the Liturgy of the Word? To answer that is a good start on Lent.
Initiative: Be a thinker. Ask what you are expressing when you act.