What do you usually think about as we begin the season of Lent? Discipline? Penitence? Fasting?
Lent is usually thought of as a season of discipline. The other three words, Austerity, Penitence, Fasting, are important for the full development of Discipline. It is more than any one of those. Lent is a season for Spiritual Formation. Lent is a time for us to let the Holy Spirit form in each of us the image both of a child of God and of a good servant of God.
The 1st lesson read today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah gives some contrasts between wrong ideas about fasting and positive ways in which we can use fasting as a way of doing something good for those who are in need.
Isaiah mentions first of all those who think of fasting only as false or self-centered humility. In contrast to this Isaiah, speaking for God, wrote; “Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (Is. 58:6) Fasting should be done with prayer, and as prayer. In fact, unless fasting is begun, continued, and ended with prayer it can only remind us of our hunger. Fasting used along with prayer can find us the vision for giving the help to others that is needed.
In terms more familiar to us in these times I think that we can say that prayer and fasting are means, for example, of finding ways to do something to help those immigrants who are threatened with deportation. Such prayer can also prepare us for welcoming refugees fleeing from oppression. It may also help to find a solution for the problems of homelessness and hunger.
Not everyone can help directly in dealing with these matters. Some can help by donating to organizations that give help. By adding our voices to public pressure ways can be found to begin dealing with these problems.
Some of us cannot fast, either because of physical infirmities, or for medical reasons. But by our prayers, and by showing our concern I feel that much can be accomplished.
Do you pray when you fast? Or if you cannot fast; as a form of fasting, give some of your leisure time to prayer?
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