March 7, 2014 Isaiah 58:1-9a; Matt 9:14-15
What is one of the most frequently asked question at this time in the church year? It probably is … “what are you giving up for Lent?”
When we think of Lent, we often think just of “giving up” something … very often … it is some kind of food item … chocolate, pizza, chips, alcohol … you name it. Yet, in today’s first reading … Isaiah broadens the dimensions of fasting … and talks about releasing people from bondage … sharing bread with the hungry … clothing the naked. Fasting for Isaiah is about freeing ourselves … to have more time and give more attention to others in need.
So we see a shift from a simple deprivation … to something much richer … a broader focus and a depth of meaning to “giving up”. Fasting from something does allow us self-discipline … and when we are in control of our own lives we can make significant strides in living the Gospel.
Traditionally … the church espouses three pillars of Lent … prayer … fasting … and almsgiving. When we see our Lenten practices in light of these three basics … we look with a clearer lens and can reach outside of ourselves and give of our time, talent and treasure to others.
So … lent is not just giving up … it is also lifting up (in prayer) … and taking up (charitable habits).
May this Lenten season be the best one we have ever had. May it be a Gospel experience … where we can understand the true meaning of fasting … turn to the Lord … see with clearer vision … and grow in holiness.