From a Creighton Student's Perspective
February 8th, 2008
Sophomore, English (creative writing) and French double major
"Would that today you might fast
Here at the beginning of Lent, the readings for today each speak to one aspect of our Lenten practices: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Psalm 51 is one of repentance, an act of contrition, and therefore a prayer to God. The Gospel is about fasting. I take Jesus’ words in the Gospel to mean that there will be an appropriate time to fast, and we are taught in the Church that this time is now. It is during Lent that we remember the time that Jesus was physically taken away from us in death, and so during this time of repentance and salvation it is fitting that we fast.
The first reading from Isaiah, however, takes the idea of fasting and completely turns it around. It shows us that almsgiving and fasting are more closely connected than we realize. Isaiah incites the people to quit fasting as an empty ritual and instead to set free the oppressed, clothe the naked and feed the hungry—in other words to practice the corporal works of mercy. These are some of the ways we give alms, but in doing them we are also performing self-sacrifice, in Isaiah’s view a truer sacrifice than simple fasting.
So maybe after reflecting on the readings today we can be inspired to make our Lenten sacrifices more than just doing what we are supposed to do. Maybe we could offer up our fasting for a particular purpose, take up a prayer for a specific intention, or do something active rather than just dropping our loose change into a Rice Bowl. Maybe we could volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, spend time with underprivileged children, or even get more involved in activities in our own parish. Here at Creighton I am fortunate to be going on a Spring Break Service Trip during Lent where I can put my sacrifice and my fasting into practice.
Isaiah’s words remind us that fasting is supposed to make
you more holy, and we can go so much further in this goal if we
don’t just follow the routine. There is more salvation in
action, in bringing about God’s justice and His kingdom here
on Earth than there is in wallowing in our own sinfulness and misery,
turned in upon ourselves. Whatever we do this Lent, in our prayer,
our fasting, or our almsgiving, is more fully a gift of ourselves
and more fully redemptive if it is turned outward.
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