REFLECTION CAPSULE – March 04, 2022: Friday

“With ‘compassion’, opening our eyes to the real purpose meaning of our fasting and our acts of penance!”

(Based on Isa 58:1-9 and Mt 9:14-15 – Friday after Ash Wednesday)

Two wives were sharing their experiences about their husbands.

The first wife shared:
“My husband is a very good man. But the only trouble is he does not understand my weaknesses.

He comes home every evening and bombards me with a barrage of questions:

‘Did you do what I told you?’
‘Did you waste any time today?’
‘Did you complete all the works on your to-do-list?’

He always demands. He always expects.

As much as I try, I cannot satisfy him.

The worst thing is, he is always right!
I cannot meet his expectation, because I am not able to!”

The second wife shared:
“My husband is a very good man. And the advantage is, he understands my weaknesses.

He comes home very evening and engages in dialogue-questions with me:

‘Hope you had a good day today’
‘I wish that you got some rest today’
‘I hope you did not strain yourself much, completing all the works’

He always understands. He always encourages.

As much as I put in the effort, he appreciates me.

The best thing is, he is always right!
I can meet his expectation, because he makes me able!”

Do we want to know the name of the two husbands?

The First: Mr Rigid!
The Second: Mr Compassionate!

What about us?

How are we in our Christian lives?

Mr Rigid?
Mr Compassion?

The Gospel of the Day presents this contrasting attitude of human tendencies in the Person of Jesus and the Pharisees…
… over the stagnant practise of an important devotion: 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 rigidity in their thought and practice.

The practice of fasting was…
… for atonement of one’s sins.
… a time of mourning in seeking for the restoration of Israel.
… a period 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 rigid…
… 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 “rigid”.

Instead, with “compassion”, let us open our eyes to the real purpose meaning of our fasting and our acts of penance.

Yes, let us examine:
How are we in our Christian lives?

Mr Rigid?
Mr Compassion?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

📖 Discovering the beauty of the Catholic Church through the Catechism

God predestines no one to go to hell.
For this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary…
… and persistence in it until the end.
In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:

Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen (CCC # 1037)

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