Lenten Fasting Reflections
March 28th Reflection:
When in Mark’s Gospel is Jesus most fully the Messiah? When he heals, teaches, forgives, or calls disciples? It is likely none of these. Rather, the author of Mark reveals Jesus as the Messiah through titles like Son of Man, Holy One, Christ, Son of David, etc.
The key title for Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is Son of God. We learn this in Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” So, the next time that we hear this title, the author will be revealing Jesus fully as the Messiah.
That time is when Jesus dies on the cross in Mark 15:38. In 15:39, we find, “When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” We hear that Jesus is the Son of God from his executioner. Thus, Jesus is most fully the Messiah when he is dead and powerless on the cross. God’s way of cross and resurrection overcomes the world’s way of cause and effect.
This is the Paschal Mystery, the heart of our salvation. Jesus trusts God the Father deeply enough to surrender to God’s plan of crucifixion and death, placing all hope for resurrection in his Father’s hands. When we think all is lost is when God the Father acts most powerfully.
May we enter the Paschal Mystery in Holy Week, putting our hopes in God’s hands who brings new life to all who embrace the cross and resurrection.
March 14th Reflection:
Johnny Lee has a well-known song: “I was lookin' for love in all the wrong places, Lookin' for love in too many faces, Searchin' their eyes, Lookin’ for traces of what I’m dreaming of, Hoping to find a friend and lover…”
Do we look for love in people, places, and things that tell us what they think we want to hear, scratch our backs, and more? This love nurtures our false self. It takes boatloads of energy to prop up our false self, the polished image that we put forth, fearing people will reject our true self.
Lent is a time to fast from looking for love in all the wrong places, too many faces, hoping that I might find a friend or a lover who affirms my false self. Let’s fast from all that affirms our false self. Simply put, it is so much work that leaves us exhausted.
Instead, let us look for love from God our Father who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).”
God’s love in Christ, who is lifted up on the cross for us, calls forth our true self. This is the person whom God has destined us to be through cross and resurrection.
February 28th Reflection:
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain where he is transfigured. They are blown away by this experience. Then, Jesus gives them an order: tell no one about this until He has risen from the dead. That is, fast from talking about this until the resurrection. Fasting always has a higher purpose.
Why do we fast? Do I fast from food, music, busyness, or gossip, so that when Lent ends, I might have become a world champion faster? This is really about my ego versus it being about service and love. Fasting for the sake of fasting is not about following Jesus.
One way to cultivate this love in our hearts is to fast from things that comfort us: food, music, busyness, TV binging, etc. When I fast from these things, how can I invite Jesus to work through me to build God’s kingdom? For example, when I fast from food, I can give the money or food saved to hungry people. Fasting from busyness and my own pursuits, I can spend that time in prayer for or service to others. Fasting with another person gives us strength to stick to it.
We fast so that it will lead to our living in service and love, just as Jesus’ vocation is to love and serve us. When we follow him, we take on his vocation of self-sacrificing love. Fasting is one way that the Holy Spirit can work through us to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
March 21st Reflection:
What is the Christian vocation? Is it to find something that I am good at and serve others? Is it to do something that makes me happy? There is a problem with this: it is all about me!
Jeremiah tells us that God writes a new covenant on our hearts. Hebrews proclaims that Jesus learns obedience from suffering, becoming the source of salvation for all who obey him. Jesus teaches in John, “…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
The Christian vocation is the Paschal Mystery where, like Jesus, we live by dying, win by losing, and receive by giving. Jesus calls us to die to our plans to make ourselves holy. Then, we surrender to God the Father who makes us holy through the cross and resurrection. This leads to our avocations, generously sharing our hearts in marriage and family, single life, priesthood, and the ways Jesus calls us to steward our God-given gifts.
We must let Jesus’ suffering become a part of our lives, feeling His love for us. Thus, we become inspired in Jesus’ hands, following his example of loving others through our own suffering.
So, let us fast from embracing a life path that focuses primarily on ourselves. Rather, to follow Jesus is to hear and heed his voice, through cross and resurrection, that leads to joy, living no longer for ourselves but for others.
March 7th Reflection:
The bedrock of the 10 Commandments is the first: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me.” God is clear: turning to a false god to meet our needs enslaves us. Bondage results when we turn to any entity, including ourselves, besides God to seek life.
Further, God is the only one who can free us from this slavery. How? Through Christ crucified as we hear today in 1 Cor 1:23-24, “…we proclaim Christ crucified…to those who are called…Christ the power of God…” and John 2:19, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Simply put, God pulls us out of the slavery of sin by destroying false gods through the Paschal Mystery, through Christ crucified.
Yet, we sometimes think that we can pull ourselves out of this slavery on our own power, which only locks us more deeply in bondage. What do we do? Fast from trying to save ourselves and allow God to take over.
One way is turning to God in prayer, focusing on Psalm 46:11, gently breathing this Scripture in and out, prayerfully allowing the words to fall away, fasting from my attempts to save myself, falling into God’s loving and saving arms:
Be still and know that I am God…
Be still and know that I am…
Be still and know…