Friday, 15 February 2013 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (Scripture Reflection)

Today, and many other days in this season of Lent, we are asked to do penance, and repent, and truly focus our attention back to the Lord. Also today being friday, we usually do the practice of abstinence, that is to abstain from eating meat, particularly red meat today. We also have the practice of fasting, which all of us Catholics must do on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, on which day we fast, by eating only a full meal and up to two smaller meals or snacks.

Have we done our part in doing these fasting and abstinence practices? These are the practices highly recommended for us to be done during this season of Lent. One may ask, then why don’t we fast like those Muslims or other religions do? That when they fast, they do not eat for long hours of the day, and fast for a whole month, then why don’t we just fast for the whole of the 40 days, and eat only once per day? Does it not fit better with the description of Lent as a season for fasting?

No, the reason we do not fast for such periods is because, we do not want to lose the focus of fasting, that fasting should not be done for the sake of fasting, that fasting should indeed be done out of sincere love for God and desire to turn back fully to the Lord. Fasting should be a facilitator of our repentance and a vessel through which we can better focus our attention to God. For in the reading today, the Lord tells us that He do not desire our fasting and abstinence, but rather our hearts, our broken and sinful hearts, that truly change and repent into renewed and sanctified hearts through our complete transformation, not only physically, but most importantly, the transformation of what is inside us.

Therefore, what matters this Lent is that we strive to make changes in our life, from those things that we have done in sin, slowly and surely we turn these into things done for the glory of God. For when we fast, it is to actually turn our focus and attention into our hearts, to look inside, whether we have done what is concrete to change from our sinful ways and walk into the light. For it is wrong when we fast or abstain, but we end up doing the opposite, for example, there are some who abstain on Fridays of the Lent, but then gather together and have a seafood BBQ or seafood party. Well technically you are not eating meat indeed, and fish is the alternative allowed, but then you are missing the point of fasting if you do so.

The same is also when you fast, but then during the fast, you grumble and think why should I waste my time with this fast, and look forward to the meal time, and when the meal time comes, you just devour as much food as you can. This is also missing the point on doing fasting during this holy period of Lent.

Therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, in this Lenten period, do fast, and do abstain, and if you like even not only on Fridays, but also on other days of the Lent if you want to, but most importantly, do not forget that what matters is to make sure that we are changed internally, and that we make use this time, to bring ourselves closer to God, closer to Him who loves us, and willing to accept us back into His embrace, if only we reject our sins and turn our face back towards the Light. May God bless all of us in this Lent, and have a blessed fast and abstinence everyone! Amen.

Friday, 15 February 2013 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 9 : 14-15

Then the disciples of John came to Him with the question, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Friday, 15 February 2013 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (First Reading)

Isaiah 58 : 1-9a

Cry out aloud for all you are worth; raise your voice like a trumpet blast; tell My people of their offenses, Jacob’s family of their sins.

Is it true that they seek Me day after day, longing to know My ways, as a people that does what is right and has not forsaken the word of its God?

They want to know the just laws and not to drift away from their God. “Why are we fasting,” they complain, “and you do not even see it? We are doing penance and you never notice it.”

Look, on your fast days you push your trade and you oppress your labourers. Yes, you fast but end up quarreling, striking each other with wicked blows.

Fasting as you do will not make your voice heard on high. Is that the kind of fast that pleases me, just a day to humble oneself? Is fasting merely bowing down one’s head, and making use of sackcloth and ashes? Would you call that fasting, a day acceptable to YHVH?

See the fast that pleases Me : breaking the fetters of injustice and unfastening the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke. Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the one you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin.

Then will your light break forth as the dawn and your healing come in a flash. Your righteousness will be your vanguard, the Glory of YHVH your rearguard. Then you will call and YHVH will answer, you will cry and He will say, I am here.