March 8 - Fasting and Justice
Mar 7, 2019
Scriptures: In today's scriptures the Lord is challenging the vanity that occurs when people fast. There is in some a pride that occurs or a self-righteousness that they are fasting. There can even be a sense of "keeping up with the Joneses" and one-upping others in your personal holiness. It would be like the person who chooses something really hard to give up in order to call attention to themselves. This does not bring us closer to God! Instead God calls the Jewish people in the Old Testament to the type of fasting that is really focused outside of oneself. God would rather we pursue justice in love of the poor and oppressed than to deny ourselves earthly goods in order to build our spiritual pride. However, we should also be warned not to let our actions for Justice become a thing of pride either. The Gospel reminds us that fasting is meaningless without the relationship between us and Jesus. Fasting draws us closer to unity with God, that is why Jesus' disciples didn't fast (at times) because He was united with them.
Core Faith Principle: It is easy for us to view our God in the same lens as other faiths view God. When I speak with young people they believe the core principle of our faith is the adage "Be nice to other people." The truth of the matter is that Atheists are nice to one another (most of the time). What most people don't understand about the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is that this God does not intend at all to be our master. We are not in a punitive relationship, we are not forced to labor for this God, and we are not created by God for his entertainment. Jesus, an inseparable member of the Trinity, calls us to be his friends. Why? So that he can share everything with you. This God, unlike any other, did not create you to rule and subdue you. He created you, that you might be one with Him. He created you, so that you might share in Divine Life itself and through that unity become God. Your purpose is not to "be good" but to become "One with God" or to "Be God." There is no such thing as a hostile takeover, you will not be able to wrest power for yourself (the pride that would do that would disqualify you from unity with God in the first place), but rather that you would be elevated to perfection in Wisdom, Love, and Understanding. Therefore in Lent, as we aim for this unity, we must accept suffering as Christ accepted suffering, and we must accept life and Christ accepted it.
Living this at Home: You may consider a way to translate the fasting (giving something up) in the family with service. One example is the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl Project. That is designed so that those who may give up something like coffee might instead put an equivalent amount of money (for the sacrificed coffee) into the bowl. At the end of Lent that money is donated to CRS to aid those who have been devastated by natural disasters, famines, and disease outbreaks. You may also consider taking a special family trip into Boston (Downtown Crossing for Example) where you might bring a bag lunches and some money for the homeless there; then the family can choose a fun activity for the family in town (lunch, ice cream, a show, escape the room, etc). Not only are you helping others, you are growing in unity as a family as you are intended to unite with God.