Friday after Ash Wednesday
Isaiah 58:1-9a; Matthew 9:14-15
The prophet Isaiah challenges us to look at our motives for taking on various Lenten penances. It is important to keep in mind that lent in not about us but about God and His infinite mercy. Lent offers us an opportunity to repent of our sins and to return to the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father. We subject ourselves to the disciplines of lent in an effort to put an end to our self-absorption and allow ourselves to be absorbed by God and His love for us. Fasting allows us to identify our spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God, the Master and Sustainer of all that exists.
Remember, the mortifications of lent are not about us but about Christ and His self-emptying love for the human race. It might be good to reflect upon these familiar words taken from the Letter to the Philippians. “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Phil. 2:5-7). The example of Christ is set before us. We must resemble him in his life, if we are to resemble him in his death. He not only took upon himself the likeness of a man, not appearing in splendor, but in poverty and suffering. Mortification allows us to identify with the poverty and lowliness of Christ.
The almsgiving of lent is not about us but about the providential love of God made visible to us in Christ, who is abounding in mercy. By fasting and prayer we seek to abase ourselves and beg his mercy for our sins. Having been forgiven, we can manifest our repentance by doing good works and attending to the needs of the poor. The duties of kindness and charity strengthen and refresh both body and soul. We have only to ponder these words uttered by the prophet Micah: “He has shown you, o man, what is good and what he requires of you. You are to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God” (Mi. 6:8). The good that God requires of us is, not the paying of a price for the pardon of sin, but rather, loving Him and all those He loves. Blessed be the Lord who is ever ready to give grace to the humble and contrite of heart. May our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.