With the beginning of Lent just a couple of days away, many are thinking about how they will honour this holy season. One question we pose is "What shall I give up for Lent?" This is a beautiful and traditional Lenten penitential practice, born of a recognition of our sinfulness and need for penance, and stemming from a desire to make more room in our lives for God and others. What will it be? Coffee? Chocolate? Alcohol?
The Scripture readings for Sunday suggest some paths for our Lenten fast. In the Gospel Jesus teaches his disciples not to worry. Given our penchant for anxiety, that seems quite a command! We worry about everything! Behind the teaching of Jesus is the truth about his (and our) heavenly Father. God our Father knows our every need even before we ask, and like any loving parent, provides all that his children truly need. Jesus is inviting us to replace fear with trust. Might we consider, then, fasting from fear and worry this Lent?
St. Paul warns against judging others. Yep, here is something else we're very good at. Into every human heart creep jealousy, envy, bitterness and so on, which give rise to a tendency to pronounce judgement upon others. Since we cannot see into the heart of another and do not always know all the factors at play in another person's life, our judgments are never based on complete information. Only God knows the heart thoroughly. Therefore, St. Paul tells us, judgement belongs to God alone. Giving up judging others during Lent (and always!) would be a great penitential practice.
Isaiah speaks to a suffering people who feel they have been abandoned by God. Such a sentiment is not foreign to many people, especially those who are alone, lonely, sick, or struggling in any number of ways. Speaking through the prophet, God assures us that he will never forget or abandon us. Even though a mother forget her child (and what mother could, really?), God will never forget us. Recall that Jesus took to himself on the Cross even this human experience (My God, why have you forsaken me?) and demonstrated through the Resurrection that God is always near to his people with his power to save. Feeling abandoned? Scripture invites us to fast from this and acknowledge the love of our God.
Let's pray for one another during this sacred time. May God's grace inspire within us a desire to fast from whatever is distracting us away from our relationship with him. May the Lord's love move each of us surely along the path of sincere repentance and deep conversion.