A PLEASING PENANCE

Friday 3rd March – Friday after Ash Wednesday

Reflection: Isaiah 58: 1-9

A PLEASING PENANCE

A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. As the call to fasting, prayer and almsgiving is emphasized this season, we must not fall into the trap of being “angry” as a result of “hunger”. Our penance is aimed at putting our flesh underneath and seeking to love God in our neighbours. Hence, for it to be rewarding, our penance must be pleasing to God. In today’s reading, God reprimanded the Israelites through Prophet Isaiah because their penance was accompanied by dishonesty, oppression and quarrelling; He told them clearly that their penance had no reward: “Fasting like yours today will never make you voice heard on high…” (Is 58:4). On the other hand, He called them to seek for justice and be generous with corporal works of mercy – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless etc.

Dear friend, what acts of penance have you set out to undertake this season? Let these acts be marked by an honest desire to seek out the needs of those around you. As you do this, God promises that: “your light will shine like the dawn and your wound will be quickly healed over. Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you. Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’ (Is 58: 8-9).

Every day of Lent, look out for a need in someone around you: maybe a need for money, attention, care, a listening ear etc and meet that need in love. Let your acts of penance truly please the Lord throughout this season and bring relief and joy to others.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please help me to extend my hands generously to others this season so that my penance may be pleasing to you. Amen.

Faith Pearls: YOUCAT 450 – What are the “corporal works of mercy”?

To feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and the imprisoned, and bury the dead

Hide a Treasure: “Is not this the kind of fast that pleases me: 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 turn away from your own kin” Isaiah 58: 6a,7 CCB

Today’s Readings: Isaiah 58: 1-9; Ps 51: 3-6, 18-19; Mt 9: 14-15

FASTING OR FEASTING?

Friday 4th september- Friday of week 22 of the year

FASTING OR FEASTING?

Luke 5:33-39

Which comes first, fasting or feasting?  The disciples of John the Baptist were upset with Jesus’ disciples because they did not fast.  Fasting was one of the three most important religious duties, along with prayer and almsgiving.  Jesus gave a simple explanation. There’s a time for fasting and a time for feasting (celebrating). To walk as a disciple with Jesus is to experience a whole new joy of relationship akin to the joy of the wedding party in celebrating with the groom and bride their wedding bliss.  But there also comes a time when the Lord’s disciples must bear the cross of affliction and purification.  For the disciple there is both a time for rejoicing in the Lord’s presence and celebrating his goodness and a time for seeking the Lord with humility, fasting and for mourning over sin.  Do you take joy in the Lord’s presence with you and do you express sorrow and contrition for your sins? 

Jesus goes on to warn his disciples about the problem of the “closed mind” that refuses to learn new things.  Jesus used an image familiar to his audience; new and old wineskins.  In Jesus’ times, wine was stored in wineskins, not bottles. Are we to reject the old in place of the new?  Just as there is a right place and a right time for fasting and for feasting, so there is a right place for the old as well as the new.  Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (Matthew 13:52).  How impoverished we would be if we only had the Old Testament or the New Testament, rather than both?  The Lord gives us wisdom so we can make the best use of both the old and the new. He doesn’t want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new work of his Holy Spirit in our lives. He wants our minds and hearts to be like the new wine skins, open and ready to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit.  Are you eager to grow in the knowledge and understanding of God’s word and plan for your life?

PRAYER: Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth.  Help me to seek you earnestly in prayer and fasting that I may turn away from sin and willfulness and conform my life more fully to your will. May I always find joy in knowing, loving, and serving you.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 2043: The Fourth Precept (“You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church”) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.

HIDE A TREASURE: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” Matt 5:17 RSV-CE

Today’s Readings: Col 1:15-20; Ps 100: 1-5; Lk 5:33-39

FOLLOWING THE BRIDEGROOM’S FOOT STEPS

Friday 7th March – Friday after Ash Wednesday     

Reflection: Matthew 9: 14-15

FOLLOWING THE BRIDEGROOM’S FOOT STEPS

Our identity as Christians comes with responsibilities. The sum of which requires that our lives be modeled after our lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20). Since He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), we can be rest assured of a victorious Christian life when we carefully follow his footsteps. From today’s Gospel reading we see our Lord answer the disciples of John that His disciples will fast when He, the Bridegroom, is taken away from them.

Going by our Lord’s response and His personal example of forty days of fasting and prayer (Matthew 4:1-2), we need to ask ourselves how readily we embrace this spiritual discipline? Though for various reasons we might not all be able to fast for forty days, nevertheless we must not be carried away by the spiritual laxity and error of those who now consider fasting as archaic and inconsequential to our spiritual development! The Scripture and the Church both advocate our need for self mortification through fasting and abstinence to be more united to God (1 Corinthian 9:25-27; Joel 2:12-13; Daniel 9:3-4; CCC 2043). Quoting St. Augustine, “Fasting purifies the soul. It lifts up the mind, and it brings the body into subjection to the spirit. It makes the heart contrite and humble, scatters the cloud of desire, puts out the flames of lust and enkindles the true light of chastity.”

However, whether as part of the discipline of Lent or outside the Lenten season, it is important we conduct our fast in a manner acceptable to God (Isaiah 58:1-9). Our fasting must be coupled with good work, especially towards the needy. We must necessarily spend more time in prayer and avoid all forms of spiritual pride (Luke 18: 9-14; Matthew 6:16-18)!

PRAYER: Dearest Father, please help me to mortify my body that my spirit may be more united with You. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 487Why should we petition God for other people?

As Abraham intervened by his prayer for the inhabitants of Sodom, as Jesus prayed for his disciples, and as the early Christian community looked “not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4), so too Christians always pray for everyone—for people who are dear to their hearts, for people who are not close to them, and even for their enemies.

HIDE A TREASURE: “So we fasted and besought our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty” Ezra 8:23 RSV-CE

Readings for today: Isaiah 58: 1-9; Psalm 51: 3-6,18-19; Matthew 9:14-15