Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday word, 23 Feb 2007

Friday after Ash Wednesday (23 Feb 2007) Is 58. 1-9a; Ps 51; Mt 9. 14-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Pillar Which Cleanses

Lent has three pillars: fasting; praying; and almsgiving. Both Isaiah and Jesus focus us on the first pillar of fasting. We might consider fasting as only a duty and think of its externals. We might even think fasting is an end itself.

From a medical point of view, people fast so that blood tests and even some visual exams may yield true results. Fasting is not the end; it serves to reach the goal of accurate, true results.

The goal of fasting, in Lent or anytime, is to enhance our ability to relate better with others.
This...fasting, Isaiah reminds us,
releas[es] those bound unjustly...
Set[s] free the oppressed,
break[s] every yoke;
our bread with the hungry,
shelter[s] the oppressed and the homeless,
Cloth[es] the naked when
we see them,
refuses to ignore others.
Our self-centeredness and our attachments distract us from doing these godly things. We exercise our hearts in order to sensitize ourselves to want and to choose to do these godly things. Fasting--from things or activities, as well as food--sensitizes our hearts and leads us to desire to do for others what God desires.

When we feel that we do not do them we are feeling distant from Jesus. The twinge fasting causes makes us more alert to Jesus; it helps us desire to reverse how we have distanced Jesus. Fasting assists us in our struggle with evil.

Evil is not something, and God does not create evil. No created things are evil in themselves.* We hear people speak otherwise: people are evil; that thing or that event is evil. Not so! Evil is in our attitude towards creation, that is, in our power to choose. Fasting cleanses our power to choose what is godly and to choose less often what is not. This is one reason why Lent is a “joyful season.”**

* St. Augustine was one of our earliest authorities for this. “To thee [God] there is no such thing as evil, and even in thy whole creation taken as a whole, there is not; because there is nothing from beyond it that can burst in and destroy the order which thou hast appointed for it. But in the parts of creation, some things, because they do not harmonize with others, are considered evil. Yet those same things harmonize with others and are good, and in themselves are good (Confessions, Book 7, ch. 13, section 19).

** from Lenten Preface I.
LentLogo by anajemstaht, whose permission, "My Lent logo - you can use it if you give me credit. Source was jpg," is at the flickr link.

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