Is 58:1-9 / Mt 9:14-15
Until the mid-1960s, the time of Vatican Council II, we Catholics fasted six days out of seven for the whole six weeks of Lent. How we looked forward to Sundays! And then the discipline of the Church changed to what is now the practice: fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstaining from meat on the Fridays of Lent.
Has the Church gotten soft? Is that what’s going on? I don’t think so. I think there was something more subtle and wise behind the decision to change, and that is the recognition that we can get so caught up in the externals that we can miss or bypass the real point. It’s so easy to say something like, “I’ve had a very successful Lent because I’ve kept the fasting rule perfectly every single day without exception.” To think or say that would, of course, be a joke. But the speaker might well not know it.
Today’s Old Testament reading tells us what the Lord wants us to accomplish in Lent. “The fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.”
God is summoning us to do more than play at being Christian. He wants to help us change our hearts, and only the works of love can do that.
Love in deed, and your heart will change and grow very full indeed!