Often, when I'm looking for a daily mass to attend, I head to masstimes.org to find the latest Mass that fits into my schedule. Yes, I will not deny that mornings are not my favorite time of day. Once I'm up and going, I love when I have gotten up early. Unfortunately, that is the last thing I care about when I'm hitting snooze.
On Friday, In keeping with my normal routine, I attending an evening Mass at a parish a small distance away. The readings, as is fitting for Lent, focused on fasting. The first reading called us to see the meaning of our fast.
Talk about a wake up call! Is it not too often that Catholics refrain from eating or doing something without praying with it? How many times have we, ourselves, failed to genuinely pray through our fast, rather than simply abstaining from something?
Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
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.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and 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!
The priest at this parish gave a wonderful homily. He closed with a simple, yet profound, statement: "Let us not fast in vain."
What good is fasting if there is no meaning behind it but simple will-power? What good is abstaining from meat on Fridays if we have our favorite seafood instead? What is the point of "giving up" chocolate if we do not thank Christ for His sacrifice each time we pass up a treat? How is unplugging a television set have any purpose if we do not use our newly free time to give glory to God?
"Lent is not about a bunch of praying. It is not about fixing a few bad habits. Lent is about reorienting our life toward the end for which we were created" (Fr. Andy Alexander)
As we enter this first week of Lent, let's prayerfully focus on the meaning of our actions. It is through this season that we have the opportunity to celebrate the Paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.