“Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples don’t fast at all?” (Mt 9:14)
Today’s Passages: Mt 9:14-15; Is 58:1-9a
Meditation: Today’s meditation verse really motivates us to review our attitude toward the fasting and penance we do during this holy Lenten season. Both the first and the second reading rightly support us in this direction. It is quite human to think of others, during this Lenten season, in view of their practice of prayer and fasting. How often do they practice it? Or how rigorously do they follow it? Moreover, there is also a tendency to think of one’s own Lenten practices as to its fruitfulness.
In the gospel reading we heard about a question: “Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples don’t fast at all?” (Lk 9:25) We are doing our prayers and penance and to some extent others too, but “why not then your disciples?” is the real question for many of us during this Lenten season. Is it not a real temptation that seeks self-righteousness? I hope it is indeed! Whenever you compare yourself with others in your religious practices, you are in the verge of self-righteousness.
In the first reading we hear apparently a cry of a devotee as his religious activities go unnoticed: “Why are we fasting, if you do not see it? Why are we doing penance, if you never notice it?” (Is 58:3) Perhaps this prayer is a sign of one’s unbearable suffering or one’s loss of hope in God and prayer. That means it is prayer of a desperate person. It has also got another dimension as to its self righteousness. Why should I do this, if it is not considered well or at all? That means, I am not doing it for myself, rather I am doing it on behalf of others; to show others.
Therefore, in the very beginning of this holy Lenten season, we are asked to review thoroughly ourselves and find out whether we are ready to overcome these temptations or not. I have to be rest assured of myself the fact that whatever I do during this Lenten season is not for showing others rather it is for me and for the reparation of my sins only. Once I am convinced that these are for me, then, I am not bothered about others’ indifference or hypocrisy.
If I am free of these temptations, then I will be able to do the real fasting that is highlighted in the first reading: “Is it not this, the kind of fast that pleases me: to break the fetters of injustice, to untie the thongs of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to break every yoke. Is it not to share your food with the hungry, to bring into your house the homeless poor, to clothe the naked when you find them and not to turn away from your own kin?” (Is 58:6, 7) Of course, these may not come under cultic Lenten practices, but they are prophetic way of spirituality and Christianity.
Prayer: Lord God, we thank you and praise you for your daily eternal bread. God, help us to learn the real meaning of repentance and fasting. We understand that it is not mere outward seasonal religious practices; rather it has to be practicing of authentic Christian life throughout our life. Let this Lenten season be an intense period of learning it. We ask for this grace through Christ our Lord. Amen!
Greetings: God is with you! Wish you a blessed and fruitful Lenten Friday!