February 28, 2020 – Friday after Ash Wednesday

“Overcoming stagnancy in faith and practising penance in sincerety!”

(Based on Is 58:1-9 and Mt 9:14-15)

Dengue and malaria are fatal sicknesses that have affected a large number of people, all over the world. 

These dreaded sicknesses, are mosquito-borne infections that can cause severe-flu like illness.

One of the causes of steep rise of mosquitoes is the accumulation of stagnant water.

Stagnant water is a favourite breeding-ground for mosquito larvae, which leads to the spread of dengue.

When there is stagnancy, there is a greater chance of sicknesses to spread!

This simple aspect can be very well applied to human minds and human actions as well…

A stagnant mind becomes the breeding ground for laziness, obstinacy and lethargy!
A stagnant action becomes the breeding ground for lukewarmness and listlessness!

There is no vitality in stagnancy…

There is no vivacity in sluggishness…

There is no exuberance in dormancy…

The Gospel of the Day presents this attitude of lifelessness and inertness due to the stagnant practice of an important devotion, namely fasting!

The disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus with an important query:”Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?” (Lk 9:14)

The Mosaic Law commanded only one day of fasting – the day of Atonement.

The Book of Leviticus prescribes this fast:
“On the tenth day of the seventh month..
…you are to enter into a solemn fast and refrain from all work, because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you.

In the presence of God you will be made clean of all your sins.

It is a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. You must fast. It is a perpetual ordinance” (Lev 16:29-31)

But it is to be noted that the Pharisees and apparently, the disciples of John had also adopted another tradition: that of fasting two days a week.

This was considered to be a very pious and pride action among this group.

In Luke 18:12, we find the Pharisee who boasts of fasting twice a week, as he makes his prayer, in contempt of the tax collector.

It is to this fasting, that the disciples of John refer to, when they counter Jesus with the question: “Why don’t your disciples fast?”

But Jesus opens their eyes to see the stagnancy in their thought and practice.

·       The practice of fasting was for atonement of one’s sins.
·       The practise of fasting was a time of mourning in seeking for the restoration of Israel.
·       The practice of fasting was a time of waiting for the Messiah who would redeem their nation.

But somehow all these basic aspects of fasting were forgotten and apparently, lost.

Their practise of fasting had grown stagnant.

Their mindset in skipping meals had become sluggish.
They failed to realise the reason and meaning for their fasting.

The Lord declares Himself as the Bridegroom, who has come to restore the glory of Israel. (Mt 9:15)

The time of mourning is over.

The period of fasting is no longer.

It’s time to rejoice with Him, who is the Bridegroom and Saviour – Jesus!

Yes, when one loses sight of the original purpose, the actions become mere lifeless customs.

When one fails to know the actual motive, the conduct becomes a mere obsolete ritual.

A custom, devoid of its purpose and real intention is dead and decayed.

A tradition, conducted without the true motivation is irrelevant and trivial.
A ritual, performed without knowledge of true meaning is an immaterial routine. 

The Season of Lent calls for us to make extra sacrifices, especially through the form of fasting.

What is my attitude to fasting and penance?

Has it become stagnant…
… devoid of its original purpose of sanctification and growing in closeness to God?

Has it become stagnant…
… becoming a mere yearly custom and tradition with no effect on one’s life?

Am I ready to undertake the powerful style of fasting as presented in Isaiah 58: 6-7:
A fasting…
… to lose the bonds of wickedness and to undo the thongs of the yoke
…  to let the oppressed go free and to share the bread with the hungry
… to bring homeless poor into the house and to cover the naked

Our fasting, penances and sacrifices are to be a joyful one…
… because we have Jesus, the bridegroom with us.

His presence with us, is a matter of joy;
… yet we fast and do penance, to share joyfully in His suffering and pain.

His presence with us, is an occasion of rejoicing;
… yet we make sacrifices and discipline ourselves, to find deeper meaning in His Cross.

His presence with us, is a period of celebration;
… yet we have self-control and abstain oneself, to be united closer to His redeeming action.

Let us not get stagnant.

Let us, instead, open our eyes to the real purpose meaning of our fasting and our acts of penance.

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “We must love obedience rather than fear disobedience…We must do all by love… and nothing by force!”

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