In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares himself to the bridegroom at a wedding feast and his disciples to the wedding guests. This beautiful image reminds us of the joy we experience when we are present with Jesus, either in prayer, receiving the sacraments, or in serving others with love and mercy. His reply to the disciples of John indicates that there are times when we aren’t in union with Him. It is in these times we should fast, pray, and serve others to seek a “re-union” with our Savior.
It is the season of Lent, as we anticipate the victory of Christ’s resurrection, that these Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us “re-unite” with Jesus’ times of trial on the path to His glorious resurrection.
In our first reading, God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, telling the Israelites and us, the type of fasting He desires. Fasting is not a test to see how much or how long we can go without something. Too often we become prideful even in our fasting, sharing our “feats of deprivation” with others to showcase our self-righteousness. God reminds us of the fast He desires. “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…”.
These instructions remind me of the beatitudes, which are the actions that bring us happiness. However, during Lent, we should use these virtuous acts to replace our self-serving, sometimes sinful, habits and practices. In Lent, we can replace criticizing others with praising others, accusing others with forgiving others, serving our own desires with serving the needs of those who need help obtaining adequate food, shelter, and clothing. These Lenten practices help us unite with those in need, reminding us of our own dependence on the mercy of God.
Sacrificing, even suffering temporarily, for others unites us with the suffering and sacrifice that Jesus endured in His passion and death. Uniting ourselves in Jesus’ passion and death enables us to experience the glory of His resurrection. Let’s make Lent a time to humble ourselves and truly fast for the sake of others.
Today’s Question for Prayer and Reflection
Does your fasting reflect your hunger to know God more, to grow in his holiness, and to live the abundant life of grace he offers you?