February 28, 2020
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday after Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 221

Isaiah 58:1-9A
Psalms 51: 3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19
Matthew 9:14-15

Praying Ordinary Time

Anticipating Lent

Cooking Lent
Recipes for Ash Wednesday,
all the Fridays of Lent and for Good Friday

Very early in my Jesuit formation, I was aware of a deep desire to be holy.  I once got permission to sleep without a pillow. I couldn’t wait for the nine-o’clock bell to chime. It just felt so good and holy to experience what the ancient monks must have felt. After two hours of sleepless sanctification, I began to grow tired of not being tired.  It was now six hours until rising-time and I was physically awake and mentally becoming awakened to something unholy about my attempts at doing “holy”.   I picked up my pillow from the floor, thought, “the hell with the whole thing,” gave up being “holy” and went to sleep, feeling quite a failure at being “holy”.

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist’s disciples come to Jesus with a sincere question about fasting and probably about sleeping without their pillows too. They notice that the disciples of Jesus do not do the usual legal acts of holiness. Jesus shares with His questioners a little thought-provoking image about a bride’s groom being present and then departing.  The friends of the groom are happy until their good friend leaves and then they will grieve their loss.  Did the disciples of John get the picture, get the answer?  Something new, different is in and with Jesus about just what the human response to God is and will be. Holiness has to do with a relationship with its responses rather than with a legal practice with its demands and expectations. It is received rather than achieved.

After listening to or reading the First Reading for today’s Eucharistic liturgy and today’s Gospel, fasting seems to be more than giving something up for the sake of getting something back. We can fast from such things as eating, drinking, watching, doing and or many other human activities and these are actually quite good. What about our fasting from eating from the delightful cookies of self-negativity and spiritual inferiority. How about fasting from drinking the fermented spirits of regret, past failures and disappointments. How about not watching the actions of self or others in a spirit of competition and compara-sinning. How about fasting from our not doing the works of caring for the lonely or lost, curing the broken and hurting, being present and receptive to the inconvenient and the awkward.  

The days of Lent are meant for our becoming more deeply aware of who we are in the Church as we will celebrate at Easter. These days are invitations to become more intentionally His disciples who, after His rising, rise, themselves to extend His life through out the human condition. We are urged and invited to become more, who He says we are and do some actions which more reveal Him and His Spirit, than our own self-holyfied selves.

 We can sleep with our pillow or even two, so that we can rise more awake to who we are in Him and He in us and in others.

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